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Cheese in Italy

Marzolino

Ever since the first cheese was unwittingly produced in the Neolithic, people have been relying on cheese for sustenance and pleasure, nutrition and delight. Culinary historians postulate that cheese came to be as the result of a happy accident: roughly 12,000 years ago, a nomadic shepherd in the Mediterranean poured the day's milk into a calf's stomach, the pouch he used for transporting goods on his journeys. After a day or so, the shepherd opened the calf's stomach and found that the milk it contained had solidified, forming a spoonable substance. And while that shepherd might have been dismayed by his finding at first, he certainly realized that the milk, in its solidified state, not only tasted good, it kept for longer as well. Thousands of years later, we still use rennet obtained from calf's stomach to separate the whey from the curds in milk; in other words, to make cheese.

While cheesemaking was first developed around the Middle East, as shown by cave paintings in the Libyan Sahara dating to 5000 B.C. and traces of cheese in the tomb of a king of the Egyptian First Dynasty dating to 3000 B.C., all cultures around the Mediterranean basin soon took up the task. Today, Italy is one of the world's leading cheese producers, and boasts a venerable tradition of cheesemaking that predates the days of the Roman Empire. The Etruscans who settled in central Italy more than 3,000 years ago were already making sheep's milk cheese; experts postulate that they grated it over boiled strips of pasta (no, pasta did not reach Italy after Marco Polo went to the Far East: it had been made locally since 1000 B.C. or so), ate it with bread, and more. Both the ancient Greeks and Romans relied on cheese as a staple; again, sheep's milk cheese was most common in these pastoral societies. Homer mentioned cheese in the Iliad, and the Roman cookbook writer Marcus Apicius talked of cheese in his first-century book.

Italy produces hundreds of different cheeses. Each region relies on its livestock to create a variety of cheeses for the table and for the kitchen. In general, northern Italian regions (Val d'Aosta, Piedmont, Liguria, Lombardy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, The Veneto, and Emilia-Romagna) have a terrain better suited to cows, so most of their cheeses are made of cow's milk. Central Italian regions (The Marches, Tuscany, Umbria, Latium, Abruzzo, and Molise) and southern Italian regions (Apulia, Campania, Basilicata, Calabria, Sicily, and Sardinia) have long been the domain of shepherds, so sheep's milk cheeses prevail. Goat's milk cheeses and cheeses made from the milk of water buffaloes are also made (the latter especially in southern regions). Today, calf's rennet and a variety of vegetable extracts (including wild cardoon) are used to coagulate milk and precipitate the separation of the curds from the whey.

The Character of Italian Cheese

How a given cheese tastes is the result of a number of factors. First and foremost, of course, is the type of milk used: a cow's milk cheese tastes different from a sheep's milk cheese, and a cheese obtained from a combination of water buffalo's milk and goat's milk has its own personality. The place where the cheese is produced (more on this below), the season in which it is produced, and how long it is aged are also major determinants of flavor: in general, summer cheese tends to be more flavorful, because the animals feed on aromatic fresh grass and wild herbs rather than dry fodder; and the longer a cheese ages, the sharper and saltier it becomes.

The place where a given cheese is produced is fundamental to determining its flavor and character. Because Italian dairies tend to process milk only from a delimited, and often quite small, area, the regional specificity of Italian cheeses is quite pronounced. Cows, goats, sheep, and water buffaloes munch on grass and hay in their natural microenvironment; the grass and hay confer a specific taste to the animals' milk, yielding cheeses with unique characteristics. Simply put, cow's milk around Novara (Piedmont), say, tastes different from cow's milk around Bari (Apulia); therefore, a cow's milk Ricotta produced in Novara will taste different from one produced in Bari. This is akin to the soil specificity of grape varietals in winemaking: the same grape varietal planted in two different locations will yield different fruit, and therefore, different wines. Not surprisingly, just as for Italian wine, Italian cheeses are safeguarded and protected by a denomination system: roughly 30 Italian cheeses are now labeled DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta, or Denomination of Protected Origin). These DOP cheeses must be made within a given production area according to strict guidelines, and owe much of their character to their place of origin. The DOP cheeses are Italy's most widespread cheeses, and, thankfully, nearly all are available in North America.

Cheese in the Italian Kitchen

The Italian word for cheese, formaggio, may be derived from the Latin formaticum (which describes the reed baskets in which curds were set to drain and mature) or from the Greek formos, for shape (meaning the mold used to shape cheese). The texture of cheese depends largely on its water content: the more water is drained out, the drier the cheese will be. Some cheeses, like Crescenza, are runny, almost liquid, while others, particularly the grainy grating cheeses like Grana Padano, are dry and crumbly; of course, the younger, fresher cheeses are moister, and the aged ones are drier and more friable.

A number of Italian cheeses are best suited to eating at the table, and others are ideal for cooking. But most are versatile enough that they can be savored raw or cooked. Keep in mind that cooking a cheese (or a cured meat such as Prosciutto, for that matter) will tend to attenuate its unique character: if you really want to savor that perfectly aged Robiola, you might be better off eating it with a hunk of country bread than stirring it into a pot of Quattro Formaggi (Four Cheese) sauce for your pasta.

spicy mozzarella

In Italy, cheese appears at nearly every meal: sometimes it is served as a course on its own, after the main course in place of dessert; other times it is incorporated in dishes as diverse as pizzas or risottos. Of all Italian cheeses, the most famous is Parmigiano-Reggiano, a crumbly, grainy, nutty-flavored raw cow's milk cheese that hails from Emilia-Romagna; there are few Italian kitchens that don't keep a wedge of this cheese on hand at all times. Mozzarella, Pecorino, Grana Padano, Fontina, Gorgonzola, and Taleggio are also prized across the country. But despite the prevalence of these cheeses across Italy, Italians are fiercely proud of the cheeses crafted in their own villages, towns, and provinces, relying on these less widespread cheeses to create their most characteristic dishes. Locally produced cheeses often lend that haunting, undefinable note to pasta stuffings, fillings or toppings for savory pies, and more. They are an integral, colorful part of the mosaic of the Italian regional kitchen.

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Fresh ricotta cheese

Cheese Tips

Saving Parmigiano Rinds

Italian cooks are renowned for their ability to make the most of any ingredient: ingenuity and frugality are part and parcel of everyday Italian cooking. So when a chunk of Parmigiano is reduced to little more than the rind, cooks in Italy don't dare throw it away: they drop it into bubbling soups or saucepots, where it releases its delicious, nutty flavor. Only then is the rind discarded... You can save Parmigiano rinds in freezer-safe plastic bags in the freezer for up to 2 months, then drop them into soups or sauces whenever you want to lend your dish a deep, lingering Parmigiano note.

Parmigiano - the king of Italian cheeses

Grating Cheese Easily

There are some fantastic cheese graters out on the market that will help you grate cheese more quickly and efficiently--the Microplane grater immediately comes to mind. But even if you have the best grater in the world, you will have a difficult time grating a soft cheese if it's at room temperature. Keep your cheese in the refrigerator until you're ready to grate it. This is especially important for soft cheeses like Mozzarella and Fontina, which tend to fall apart when too much pressure is applied as they are rubbed against a grater. Another advantage to grating cold cheese is that it "sweats" less than warm or room-temperature cheese, making it less slippery and easier to hold in your hands.

Pancake covered with Parmigiano, ready to be rolled

Preventing Mozzarella from Drying Out

In Italy, Mozzarella-producers will frown if you eat their creamy, fresh cheese even a day after it's been made: they say (and I agree) that Mozzarella is best savored right after it's been lovingly shaped by hand, and that it loses aroma and becomes drier and stringier with every passing hour. Most gastronomy shops and cheesemongers in Italy sell Mozzarella produced that very day under a sign proclaiming "Mozzarella del Giorno" ("Today's Mozzarella"). The Mozzarella is sold in plastic bags in which it floats in a lightly salted, briny water solution that prevents it from drying out. And while many North American gourmet stores and specialty shops sell Mozzarella imported from Italy, it's nearly impossible to buy it the same day it's been made: after all, there's an ocean between us and the cheese's homeland. When you purchase imported Italian Mozzarella, ask when it arrived from Italy: if the answer is a week ago, you know it's not worth the price. If possible, ask the cheesemonger to pack it in a container with a little cool salt water for you (unless, of course, it's still in its unopened package, happily floating in salt water). Eat it as soon as you get home, preferably at room temperature, draining it mere minutes before setting it on the table. Should you have any leftover Mozzarella, store it in the refrigerator in lightly salted water to cover.

Recipes

Focaccine Calde con Finocchio e Mozzarella Piccante

Roasted Fennel & Spiced Mozzarella Panini

Store-bought focaccia will work, but why not try our foolproof focaccia recipe for this succulent panino?

For the fennel:

  • 1 large fennel bulb, quartered, trimmed, cored, and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the panini:

  • 4 small focaccia breads, split horizontally, or 1 large focaccia, cut into 4 equal pieces and split horizontally
  • 1/4 cup black olive paste
  • 1/2 pound fresh Mozzarella (preferably di Bufala), thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or chili flakes

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (preferably set on convection bake).

Make the fennel: Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil and drop in the fennel. Season with the salt. Cook 5 minutes, then drain and place in a roasting pan.

Toss with the olive oil, Parmigiano, and pepper. Roast in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until caramelized. (The fennel is delicious on its own, served a side dish to any meat or fish; it also makes a great pasta sauce.) Set aside.

Make the panini: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Open up the focaccia breads on the counter and spread the olive paste evenly over the bottom half of each focaccia. Top with the roasted fennel.

Divide the Mozzarella among the top portion of each focaccia bread. Sprinkle with the salt and Aleppo pepper.

Close the panini and place on the parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake in the preheated oven 10 minutes, or until the Mozzarella melts and the panini are crispy. Serve hot. Serves 4

Cavatelli con Ricotta, Pomodorini e Basilico

Cavatelli with Ricotta, Grape Tomatoes, and Basil

Substitute 1 and ½ pounds dried cavatelli for the fresh cavatelli below if time is short.

For the cavatelli:

  • 1 pound semolina flour, plus extra for the counter
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Hot water

For the sauce:

  • 2/3 pound fresh whole-milk Ricotta
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 bunch basil, leaves only, cut into fine strips
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

For the chili oil:

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon chili flakes

To cook and serve:

  • 2 tablespoons salt

Make the cavatelli: Place the semolina on the counter and mix in the salt. Make a well in the center and add enough hot water to make a dough that comes together; it will take about 1 cup of water. The dough should be firm and form a solid mass. Add more water if the dough is ragged and does not come together (keep in mind that this dough should be quite firm, almost hard, so as to pass through the rollers of the cavatelli machine without sticking together).

Knead vigorously 5 to 10 minutes, or until very smooth. Cut into 16 pieces and roll into ¼-inch-wide logs. Roll through a cavatelli machine. Toss with semolina flour and spread out on a flour-dusted tray for up to 24 hours.

Make the sauce: In a large bowl, combine the Ricotta, tomatoes, basil, and salt. Stir gently and set aside.

Make the chili oil: Combine all the ingredients in a small skillet and heat over a low flame until the garlic and chili are aromatic, about 2 minutes.

To cook the cavatelli: Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. Add the cavatelli and the 2 tablespoons of salt; cook until the cavatelli are al dente, about 5 minutes, tasting often to determine doneness. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking water.

Stir the reserved pasta cooking water into the Ricotta sauce in the bowl. Stir in the cavatelli and the chili oil and adjust the seasoning if needed. Serve hot. Serves 8

Crostata Ripiena di Carciofi, Zucchine e Formaggio

Polenta-Crusted Artichoke, Zucchini, and Cheese Pie

This pie is best served warm just after baking, when the crust is especially crisp. The use of buttermilk in the dough is not traditionally Italian (Italians would use more butter instead) but it allows you to cut down on the fat in the recipe and obtain a luscious, crisp, crumbly crust.

For the dough:

  • 1 and ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for the counter
  • ½ cup polenta (not instant)
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoons baking powder
  • ¾ stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed, plus extra for greasing the pie pan
  • ¾ cup buttermilk, plus extra for brushing the top

For the filling:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 medium zucchini (about 1 pound), scrubbed and cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon plus ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large leeks, white part only, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • One 10-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and coarsely chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 and ½ tablespoons polenta (not instant)
  • 1 and ½ cups coarsely grated Fontina from Val d'Aosta or crumbled young goat cheese

Make the dough: Place the flour and polenta in a bowl and add the salt and baking powder. Mix well. Add the butter and quickly combine with your fingertips; it is essential that you work as fast as possible so that you avoid melting the butter (this would result in a heavier, less flaky pastry dough once baked). When the mixture resembles coarse meal, add the buttermilk and quickly gather into a mass; there will be lumps of butter visible. Add a little more buttermilk if needed to form a mass. Cut into 2 pieces, one slightly larger than the other, shape into 2 flat disks, and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate 15 minutes.

Make the filling: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the eggs in a small pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover the pot, and set aside 13 minutes. Drain, rinse under cool water, and shell the hard-boiled eggs. Cut into thin slices.

Place the zucchini in a colander set over a plate. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the salt and set aside for 30 minutes; this purges excess liquid from zucchini, making the filling less watery later. Rinse and blot dry.

Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over a medium flame. Add the leeks and garlic, and cook 10 minutes, or until the leeks are wilted. Add the zucchini and artichokes, season with ¼ teaspoon of the salt and the pepper, and sauté 8 minutes, or until the vegetables are crisp-tender. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the basil, polenta, and Fontina. Adjust the seasoning if needed. Cool to room temperature.

Assemble the pie: Butter a 9 and 1/2 -inch glass baking dish. Roll out the larger piece of chilled dough on a lightly floured counter into an 11-inch circle. Roll out the smaller piece of chilled dough into a 10-inch circle.

Line the prepared baking dish with the larger dough circle and top with half of the hard-boiled eggs; season with 1/8 teaspoon of the salt. Spoon in half of the filling. Top with the remaining hard-boiled eggs and season with the remaining 1/8 teaspoon of salt. Spoon in the remaining filling. Cover with the smaller dough circle.

Crimp the edges to seal well and use excess dough to create a pretty border around the pie. Tear a hole in the middle of the top crust and brush with buttermilk.

Bake in the preheated oven 45 minutes, or until the crust is a deep golden color and crispy. Serve warm, in wedges, with green salad tossed with lemon juice and olive oil. Serves 4 as a first course, 8 as an appetizer

Frittata al Forno con Fiori di Zucchina, Zucchine e Tre Formaggi

Zucchini & Zucchini Blossom Frittata with Three Cheeses

A luscious combination of peppery Pecorino, nutty Parmigiano, and creamy Ricotta perfectly complements the sweetness of summer zucchini and the ephemeral character of zucchini blossoms.

  • 12 baby zucchini, with blossoms attached
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Nonstick spray for greasing the parchment paper
  • 10 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • ¼ pound fresh whole-milk Ricotta

Preheat the oven to 375°.

Thinly slice the zucchini (reserve the blossoms) and toss with the olive oil, ¼ teaspoon of the salt, and a pinch of the pepper in a roasting pan.

Roast 20 minutes, or until golden at the edges and soft. Cool to room temperature.

Beat the eggs in a large bowl with the remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt, the remaining pinch of pepper, cream, Pecorino, Parmigiano, parsley, and zucchini.

Line an 8- x 10-inch roasting pan or pie plate with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper with the nonstick spray and pour in the egg mixture.

Dollop the Ricotta over the top.

Wash the zucchini blossoms thoroughly but gently and blot dry. Top the frittata decoratively with the zucchini blossoms.

Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until set and golden. Remove from the pan, peel off the parchment paper, and cut into wedges. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature. Serves 4 as a first course, 8 as an appetizer

Torta Salata al Formaggio con Asparagi

Savory Cheese and Asparagus Pie

Store-bought phyllo dough works beautifully in this lovely springtime pie. Look for phyllo dough in the freezer section of well-stocked supermarkets, and defrost overnight in the refrigerator before assembling the pie. The pie can be prepared (but not baked) up to 12 hours ahead; pour on the egg custard mixture just before baking.

For the filling:

  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/2 pound fresh Mozzarella, coarsely grated
  • 1/4 pound fresh Ricotta
  • 1/4 pound French Feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 bunches asparagus, woody ends trimmed, stalks cut into 1/4-inch lengths, tips reserved

For the pie:

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 10 sheets phyllo dough, thawed

For the custard mixture:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup club soda

Make the filling: Combine all the ingredients in a bowl (remember to reserve the asparagus tips to garnish the top of the pie).

Make the pie: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a rectangular glass baking dish (9 inches x 13 inches is ideal).

Cut the phyllo dough in half, making 20 rectangles that will line the baking pan nicely. Line the baking pan with 1 phyllo rectangle and brush very lightly with the olive oil, keeping the other phyllo rectangles covered with a dry towel while you work (otherwise the phyllo will dry out and crack, becoming very difficult to work with).

Top with another phyllo rectangle; continue in this manner, brushing lightly with olive oil and stacking phyllo rectangles, until you have used 7 phyllo rectangles.

Spoon on half of the asparagus and cheese filling and spread well, covering the dough.

Layer another 6 phyllo rectangles over the filling, brushing between the layers with olive oil.

Spoon on the remaining asparagus and cheese filling, spreading it well and covering the dough nicely.

Top with the remaining 7 phyllo rectangles, brushing between the layers with olive oil.

Arrange the reserved asparagus tips in a pretty pattern over the top of the pie.

Make the custard mixture: Whisk the ingredients together in a bowl. Pour the custard mixture over the pie. As the pie bakes, the custard will puff and turn into a delicately creamy topping.

Bake in the preheated oven 45 minutes, or until golden, set, and crisp. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature. Serves 4 as a first course, 8 as an appetizer

Cannoli Profumati all'Arancia

Orange, Mascarpone, and Ricotta Cannoli

Look for cannoli shells at Italian markets and pastry shops.

  • ½ pound fresh whole-milk Ricotta
  • ½ pound Mascarpone (preferably imported Italian)
  • ¼ cup honey (preferably orange blossom)
  • grated zest of 1 orange
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped unsalted pistachios
  • 24 mini cannoli shells

Make the cream filling: Beat the Ricotta and Mascarpone with the honey, orange zest, and cinnamon until it is perfectly smooth with a whisk.

Refrigerate up to 1 day. (Do not process the mixture in a food processor, or it will liquefy.)

Stuff the cannoli: Pipe the cream filling through a pastry bag fitted with a flat tip into the hollow cannoli shells.

Dip both ends in the chopped pistachios and arrange on a serving platter. Chill the cannoli for 2 to 12 hours and enjoy. Makes 24 miniature cannolis

Triangoli Croccanti ai Quattro Formaggi

Crispy Four-Cheese Phyllo Triangles over Baby Greens

Look for phyllo dough in the freezer section of most well-stocked supermarkets, and allow at least 12 hours to defrost in the refrigerator.

For the triangles:

  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped tarragon
  • 2 tablespoons chopped mint
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon hot Hungarian paprika
  • 1/3 pound Fontina from Val d'Aosta, rind removed, coarsely grated
  • 1/3 pound coarsely grated smoked Mozzarella
  • 1/3 pound coarsely grated fresh Mozzarella
  • 1/3 pound young goat cheese, crumbled
  • 11 sheets phyllo dough, thawed
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the greens:

  • 4 packed cups mixed baby greens
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Pinch freshly ground black pepper

Make the triangles: In a bowl, combine the herbs, pepper, nutmeg, and paprika. Add the Fontina, smoked Mozzarella, fresh Mozzarella, and goat cheese, and mix well.

Place the phyllo dough on a large cutting board, and slice into 4-inch wide strips (you will have 3 strips per sheet). Place under a dry towel while you work.

Place one strip of dough in front of you, keeping the others covered. Brush it lightly with the olive oil, cover with another strip of dough, and brush that strip with olive oil as well.

Place 2 heaping tablespoons of filling along the bottom edge of the dough. Roll the phyllo dough over the filling to enclose, folding it up away from you as if you were folding a flag.

Seal with a little additional olive oil, place seam-side down on a parchment paper-lined 11-inch x 17-inch baking sheet, and lightly oil the top.

Continue to roll triangles in this way, arranging them in a single layer on the baking sheet. (The triangles can be frozen on the baking sheet at this point; when they are solid, transfer to freezer-safe bags. Do not defrost before baking.)

To bake: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees (preferably set on convection bake). Bake the triangles for 20 minutes, or until golden and crisp.

Make the greens: Toss the greens with the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mound on 8 plates. Top each with 2 triangles and serve. Makes 16 four-inch triangles (serves 8)

Grana con Miele di Castagne e Noci

Grana Padano with Chestnut Honey and Walnuts

Grana Padano is a nutty, buttery cow's milk cheese from Lombardy, where it has been produced for a thousand years. Italians use it as often as they use Parmigiano-Reggiano and it is excellent both grated and as a table cheese. Look for Grana Padano with a smooth, golden-yellow rind stamped with the Consortium’s distinctive seal, and a compact, dense inner structure without holes or color striations. Wrap Grana Padano tightly in a double layer of plastic wrap and refrigerate it up to 1 month; wedges can also be frozen if desired. If using Grana Padano as a grating cheese, it’s always best to grate it just before savoring it—if you really must grate it days before you are going to use it, freeze it to better preserve its aroma. Serve the elegant dish below as a combined cheese and dessert course. If you can't find chestnut honey (which has a pleasantly bitter falvor), use any honey you like; clover or orange blossom are fine substitutes.

  • 3/4 pound Grana Padano, cut into 1/4-inch-thick wedges
  • 36 walnut halves
  • 1/2 cup chestnut honey

Arrange the Grana Padano on 6 plates. Top with the walnuts and drizzle with the chestnut honey. Enjoy immediately. Serves 6

Frittata di Salsiccia e Pecorino

Italian Sausage and Pecorino Frittata

Use zucchini, asparagus, or mushrooms instead of peppers if you prefer, and omit the sausage for a vegetarian frittata. Store leftover frittata in the refrigerator and enjoy at room temperature, or warm a few minutes in a preheated 350° oven.

  • 1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage, casings removed and crumbled
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 orange pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 green pepper, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 basil leaves, torn
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano

Preheat the broiler.

Heat 1 teaspoon of the olive oil in an ovenproof 10-inch skillet. Add the sausage and cook 5 minutes over medium-high heat, stirring; the sausage should be cooked all the way through and lightly browned (cook a little longer if it is not). Be sure to break up the sausage with a spoon while cooking so it is in nice, small pieces.

Add the onion, orange pepper, and green pepper, and seaon with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper. Cook 5 more minutes, or until the peppers and onion are wilted. Stir in the basil.

Beat the eggs with the cream, Pecorino, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper in a large bowl. Stir in the hot sausage-pepper mixture, beating and stirring quickly to avoid scrambling the eggs, and pour into the same skillet, dribbling in the remaining 2 tablespoons of the olive oil first. Cook over medium heat 10 minutes, or until set and golden on the bottom.

Transfer the frittata to the preheated broiler and cook until set and lightly browned on the top, about 5 minutes. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature. Serves 2 as a main course or 6 as an appetizer

Barchette di Indivia al Gorgonzola

Endive Boats with Gorgonzola and Walnut Mousse

Select a mild, buttery Gorgonzola for this rich appetizer, and cut off its rind to ensure the mousse won't be bitter.

  • 1/2 pound mild Gorgonzola, rind removed, cut into large pieces
  • 1/2 cup shelled walnut halves, plus extra to garnish
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, plus extra if needed
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 large Belgian endives, separated into spears
  • 1/4 cup honey

In a food processor, combine the Gorgonzola, the walnut halves, the cream, and the pepper until smooth; add more cream if needed to thin it out. The mousse should be as thick as jam. Refrigerate 30 minutes (or up to 2 days) to firm it up; this makes piping easier.

Arrange the endive spears on a platter with the tips facing in toward the center. Spoon the Gorgonzola mousse into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip.

Pipe the Gorgonzola mousse on the bottom half of each endive spear in a pretty rosette pattern. Top each rosette of Gorgonzola mousse with a walnut half. Drizzle the Gorgonzola mousse lightly with the honey and serve within 15 minutes. Serves 12

Stuzzichini di Fontina, Pomodoro e Rucola

Fontina, Tomato, and Arugula Triangles

While hardly traditional in the Italian kitchen, flour tortillas provide a lovely thin shell for the cheese and vegetable stuffing. In Italy, thin, pliable flatbreads called piadine--made from flour and lard--would be used instead, but tortillas are a fabulous substitute. Be sure to buy Fontina from Val d'Aosta, a nutty cow's milk cheese that melts beautifully, for this easy finger food.

  • 8 flour tortillas (8-inch diameter)
  • 1/2 pound Fontina from Val d'Aosta, rind removed, thinly sliced or coarsely grated
  • 4 plum tomatoes, very thinly sliced
  • 1 large bunch arugula, leaves only, cut into chiffonnade
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

Place 4 of the tortillas on a work surface. Top each with one-quarter of the Fontina, tomatoes, and arugula; season evenly with salt and pepper. Cover with the remaining 4 tortillas.

Heat 1 teaspoon of the olive oil in each of two 10-inch omelet pans. Slip in one of the tortillas in each skillet, and cook over medium-high heat until golden on the bottom; turn and cook the other side until golden. It will take about 5 minutes total.

Cook the 2 remaining tortillas in the remaining olive oil in the same manner.

While the second batch of tortillas cook, serve the first batch, cut into 8 triangles each. Makes 32 pieces

Crostini con Peperoni Arrostiti e Caprino

Crostini with Roasted Peppers and Goat Cheese
roast the peppers cut side down

You can top the baguette slices with slices of fresh Mozzarella instead of goat cheese for a milder flavor.

  • 24 thin slices baguette (1/4-inch-thick)
  • 2 red peppers, halved, seeded, stems and membranes removed
  • 2 yellow peppers, halved, seeded, stems and membranes removed
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 12 basil leaves, torn
  • 1/2 pound young goat cheese, at room temperature (such as Coach Farm Low-Fat Goat Cheese Sticks)

Preheat the oven to 450°.

Arrange the baguette slices in a single layer on an 11- x 17-inch baking sheet. Toast in the preheated oven until golden on top, about 5 minutes.

Raise the oven temperature to broil.

Line the same baking sheet with aluminum foil; place the peppers on it, cut side down, and broil in the preheated oven until they are blistered and black, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven; wrap in the aluminum foil that lined the baking sheet and set aside for 15 to 30 minutes; the steam in the foil packet will loosen the skin of the peppers, making them easier to peel. Unwrap the peppers, then peel and remove the seeds; cut into strips and toss with the olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and basil in a medium bowl (this can be done up to 4 days ahead and refrigerated).

Spread the goat cheese on the crostini; place on a platter, top with the roasted peppers (discarding the garlic cloves first), and serve. Makes 24

Crostini con Salmone Affumicato ed Erba Cipollina

Crostini with Smoked Salmon and Chive Mousse

Try to buy imported Italian Mascarpone (rather than domestic) for this and other recipes: the flavor is richer and creamier, the texture smoother.

  • 1/2 pound Mascarpone
  • 1 bunch chives, snipped, plus 6 chives, cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 thin slices pumpernickel bread (1/4-inch-thick), cut into 6 triangles each
  • 12 thin slices smoked salmon, halved

In a food processor, purée the Mascarpone with the snipped chives, salt, and pepper until smooth and pale green. Spread on the pumpernickel bread triangles and top each triangle with a half-slice of smoked salmon.

Garnish each bread triangle with a 1-inch-length of chive. Serve within 15 minutes. Makes 24

Cheese Table

The list below comprises Italy's most important, as well as most interesting, cheeses. Many of these cheeses are available only in Italy, and some are known only in their zone of production. Make it a point to explore Italy's cheeses both on their native soil and here: in Italy, head to a salumeria (the Italian equivalent of the delicatessen, where cured meats, cheeses, and more are sold) and to the local dairies whenever you can; and at home, take a trip to a well-stocked cheese shop with this list in hand.

Index A-B | C-D | E-F | G-K | L-O | P-Q | R-S | T-Z
Cheese
Region(s)
Milk(s)
Characteristics
Alta Pusteria
Trentino-
Alto Adige
Cow
Fatty cheese with a compact texture; aged 3 to 5 months.
Asiago DOP
The Veneto/
Trentino-
Alto Adige
Cow
Produced since the year 1000. Asiago Pressato made from whole milk and pressed in metal or plastic molds, then aged a maximum of 40 days, is more widespread, while Asiago d'Allevo, made from partly skim milk and aged up to 2 years, is the experts' favorite.
Bagiotto or Formaggio di Senigallia
The Marches
Sheep
Firm table or grating cheese.
Bagoss
Trentino-Alto Adige, Lombardy
Cow
Sharp mountain cheese; good for grating. When aged up to 2 years, it acquires greenish streaks.
Baita Friuli
Friuli-
Venezia Giulia
Cow
Firm mountain cheese
Bergkäse
Trentino-
Alto Adige
Goat
The shepherd's cheese, aged a minimum of 2 months.
Bettelmatt
Piedmont
Cow
Mountain cheese. The most flavorful is made at an altitude of 6,000 feet, neat the Gries glacier. When it is aged 3 to 4 months, it resembles Fontina.
Bitto DOP
Lombardy
Cow and up to 10% goat
Matured at least 70 days and up to several years.
Blu del Moncenisio
Piedmont
Cow
Creamy, compact, large-holed blue cheese.
Boscaiola del Gargano
Apulia
Cow
Laced with chili pepper; aged 2 to 3 weeks.
Bra DOP
Piedmont
Cow with the possible addition of sheep and/or goat
Aged 45 days to 6 months.
Branzi
Lombardy
Cow
Ideal for melting, aged from 2 to 7 months, similar to Fontina and Bitto.
Bross
Piedmont
Cow
Spiced, preserved cheese made by adding butter, spices, herbs, and grappa, Génepy, or white wine to fresh cheese and fermenting it for weeks or months.
Bruzzu or Bruzza
Liguria
Sheep or cow
Ricotta that becomes sharp as it ages and is sometimes preserved in olive oil with peppercorns. An aged version with worms that is considered a delicacy.
Bufalino del Matese
Molise
Water buffalo
Fresh Mozzarella; best eaten the day it is produced.
Burrata
Apulia
Cow
Mozzarella stuffed with cream; best eaten within 24 hours of being made. The most famous is from the town of Andria.
Burrino
Apulia
Cow
Fresh Provolone with a heart of butter; tied in pairs and eaten with celery and fennel, or enjoyed at meal's end for dessert.
Butirro
Calabria
Cow
Cheese with a heart of butter; best made from the milk of cows that gave birth 1 year before.
Cacio Marcetto or Cacio Punto
Abruzzo/Molise/
Sardinia
Sheep
Pecorino fermented in sheep's milk until tiny flies still at the larval stage develop; production is now banned.
Caciocavallo
Molise/Campania
Cow
Pear-shaped, hung to age on ropes for a minimum for 15 days; excellent melted.
Caciocavallo Podolico
Basilicata
Cow
Delicate, fatty cheese made from milk obtained from the ancient Podolica species of cattle, brought to Italy by barbarian invaders between the fourth and sixth centuries; aged 6 months to 1 year.
Caciocavallo Silano DOP
Calabria/
Basilicata
Cow
Firm cheese tied with ropes and hung to age a minimum of 15 days.
Caciofiore Aquilano
Abruzzo
Sheep
Caciotta coagulated with vegetable rennet obtained from wild cardoons; colored and flavored with saffron.
Cacioricotta
Basilicata
Goat and sheep
Dry-salted, served fresh after days of aging or aged for months and used for grating over pasta.
Cacioricotta Abruzzese
Abruzzo
Sheep
Ricotta flavored with coffee and lemon zest, eaten on feast days.
Caciotta al Tartufo
Umbria
Cow
Black truffle-laced cheese; semifirm, milky, made mostly in Norcia.
Caciotta d'Abruzzo
Abruzzo
Cow or sheep
Firm cheese; young or aged, sometimes flavored with chili pepper.
Caciotta di Montefeltro
The Marches
Sheep and cow
Semifirm cheese from the town of Montefeltro; has a thin rind and is aged about 2 months.
Caciotta Romana
Latium
Sheep with the possible addition of cow
Round and flat aged up to 2 weeks or cylindrical aged up to a few months; flavored with saffron.
Cagiolo
The Marches
Sheep
Unique cheese from Osimo, somewhere between a Ricotta and a firm cheese in texture.
Canestrati
Sardinia
Sheep
Cheese set to drain in straw baskets until firm.
Canestrato di Moliterno
Basilicata
Goat and sheep
Handmade and straw-yellow in color, pungent.
Canestrato Pugliese DOP
Apulia
Sheep
Sharp, firm cheese aged from 2 to 10 months; it owes its name to the fact that it is shaped in molds called canestri.
Carnia
Friuli-
Venezia Giulia
Cow
Pungent, firm cheese from the Carnic Alps.
Casciotta d'Urbino DOP
The Marches
Mostly sheep with the addition of cow
Michelangelo bought land in Urbino just to have a steady supply of his beloved cheese. It has a thin yellow rind and fresh flavor.
Casecc
The Marches
Cow and sheep
Wrapped in walnut leaves, aged up to 12 months in terra-cotta jugs.
Casieddu di Moliterno
Basilicata
Cow
Similar to Cacioricotta, but flavored with calamint; sold wrapped in ferns, tied with a piece of broom.
Casolet
Trentino-
Alto Adige
Cow
Traditionally made at home from casa, meaning "home." Tastiest aged 6 months.
Casolet dell'Adamello
Lombardy
Cow
Light and delicate, usually shaped into a triangle.
Castelmagno DOP
Piedmont
Cow with the possible addition of sheep and/or goat
Similar to Gorgonzola; aged 2 to 6 months in caves, it sports bluish streaks when mature.
Casu Axedu
Sardinia
Sheep
This cheese tastes like the essence of sheep's milk; it is made only from milk and rennet, without salt, and is delicious with honey.
Crescenza
Lombardy
Cow
Aged only a few days; creamy, soft, white, slightly tangy, and spreadable.
Erborinato di Pecora
The Marches
Sheep
Tangy, spreadable blue-veined cheese.
Escaroun
Piedmont
Goat and sheep
Clean and decided in flavor, for eating or grating.
Feagnute
Friuli-
Venezia Giulia
Cow
Full-fat cheese from Fagagna, near Udine; soft, fresh, and mild.
Fior di Latte
Campania
Cow
Fresh Mozzarella, sometimes smoked.
Fiore Sardo DOP
Sardinia
Sheep
Made from raw milk; soaked in a salt brine, then aged from 1 month to 9 months. Perfect for grating when mature.
Fiore Sicano or Tumazzu ri Vacca
Sicily
Cow
Soft, raw milk cheese aged in stone cellars until it acquires a fine gray mold on its surface.
Fontina DOP
Val d'Aosta
Cow
Made for centuries; one of Italy's preeminent melting cheeses, it has a nutty aroma and compact flesh.
Formaggella della Val di Scalve
Lombardy
Cow
Subtle when young, becomes more penetrating as it ages.
Formaggella di Monte
Lombardy
Cow
From the mountains around Brescia; matured for 1 month. Sports a thin yellow rind with grayish striations, a smooth, white flesh, and a delicate flavor.
Formaggette
Liguria
Cow, sheep, or goat
When fresh, excellent doused with olive oil and a sprinkling of black pepper or for stuffing focaccias and for cooking; when aged, good for grating.
Formaggio di Bufala
Campania
Water buffalo
Semifirm cheese, aged a few months. Sometimes flavored with oregano, paprika, or lemon leaves.
Formaggio di Capra
Across Italy
Goat
White, barely salted, creamy when young; sharper when aged, straw-yellow in color. Can be spiced or flavored with herbs.
Formaggio di Fossa or di Tufo
Emilia-Romagna/
The Marches
Sheep
Cheese ripened in tufaceous pits since the 1400s. Sharp, firm, with a grassy scent.
Formaggio Salato
Friuli-
Venezia Giulia
Cow
Literally, "salted cheese, this cheese is firm, cured in a brine of water, salt, and cream for a minimum of 2 months.
Formai de Mut DOP
Lombardy
Cow
A specialty of the mountains near Bergamo, aged 45 days to 6 months.
Fresa
Sardinia
Cow
Similar to the Stracchino of Lombardy when fresh; best for grating when aged.
Frue
Sardinia
Sheep
Similar to Feta, this cheese is often eaten with sliced tomatoes and olive oil or dropped into vegetable soups. It melts nicely.
Giallo Santo Ste
Liguria
Cow
From Santo Stefano d'Aveto; it has a pleasantly sharp taste and flavorful rind because as it ages it is rubbed weekly with olive oil.
Gionca
Piedmont
Cow
Salted, dry Ricotta. Sharp and crumbly.
Gorgonzola DOP
Piedmont/
Lombardy
Cow
Italy's most beloved blue-veined cheese, matured 2 months when Dolce and 3 months or longer when Piccante. Creamy in texture and pungent in flavor; melts nicely.
Grana Alto Adige
Trentino-
Alto Adige
Cow
Grainy grating cheese with a nutty aroma; aged only 2 months.
Grana Lodigiano
Lombardy
Cow
Little-known grainy-textured cheese made near Lodi, excellent for grating and eating at the table; aged 2 to 4 years, it has greenish striations and moisture seeping from its flesh.
Grana Padano DOP
Lombardy
Cow
Grating cheese aged a minimum of 1 year. It exists in two versions, Maggengo, summer cheese, and Vernengo, winter cheese. Maggengo has the most intense aroma. It has a grainy structure
Grana Trentino
Trentino-
Alto Adige
Cow
Firm, grainy cheese; aged at least 15 months, best for grating.
Grasso d'Alpe
Piedmont
Cow
Tender, fresh cheese that is the ancestor of Bettelmatt.
Graukäse
Trentino-
Alto Adige
Cow
Lean, marbled, yellow-fleshed cheese without a rind; aged up to 2 weeks until it is sharp and tangy,
Juncata or Sciungata
Molise/
Calabria
Sheep
Creamy, fresh cheese similar to Ricotta; delicious on bread.
Latteria di Fagagna
Friuli-
Venezia Giulia
Cow
Soaked in a salt brine for 2 days, rubbed with oil, and aged for at least 2 months. Eaten as a table cheese or cooked.
Liptauer
Friuli-
Venezia Giulia
Cow
Trieste's spreadable cheese, made by combining Ricotta and butter with anchovies, onion, capers, mustard, paprika, chives, and parsley.
Maccagno
Piedmont
Cow
Pressed, salted, and aged under a layer of herbs to acquire its distinctive flavor.
Magnun
Piedmont
Cow
Blue-veined cheese; creamy, compact, melts nicely.
Maiorchino
Sicily
Sheep with the possible addition of goat
Firm, dry-salted, aged in grottoes or caves for a minimum of 8 months, then rubbed with olive oil.
Marzolina
Latium
Goat
Rare cheese, amber-yellow, aged on mats of woven reeds and then in glass bottles.
Marzolino
Tuscany
Sheep
Produced in March (hence its name); aged briefly, it has a reddish rind and is compact, semifirm.
Mascarpone
Lombardy
Cow
Fatty, creamy, spreadable cheese obtained by adding a souring agent to fresh cream and letting it ferment for 24 hours; ideal in desserts.
Montasio DOP
Friuli-
Venezia Giulia
Cow
Straw-yellow in color, crumbly, and firm; aged from 6 weeks to over 1 year.
Monte Veronese DOP
The Veneto
Cow
Produced in the southern portion of the province of Verona. Sold young from whole milk and aged from skim milk.
Morlacco
The Veneto
Cow
Rare unpasteurized cheese from Alpine pastures. Tender, creamy, offered only by a handful of producers; historically, it was buried under hay in the cowshed to age.
Mozzarella or Treccione di Lucania
Basilicata
Cow
Creamy, fresh Mozzarella; also sold in 3'-long braids.
Mozzarella di Bufala DOP
Campania
Water buffalo
Fresh Mozzarella.
Mozzarella di Bufala Campana
Latium
Water buffalo
Part of the provinces of Rome, Latina, and Frosinone produce Campania's famed Mozzarella.
Mozzarella di Bojano
Molise
Cow
Fresh Mozzarella; best eaten the day it is produced.
Mozzarella Pugliese
Apulia
Cow
Creamy, fresh Mozzarella; best enjoyed the day it is produced.
Murazzano DOP
Piedmont
Sheep with the possible addition of goat
Soft and white, it has no rind since it is aged only 4 to 10 days.
Nurianengo
Piedmont
Cow
Rare cheese with greenish mold.
Padduni
Sicily
Goat
Spherical cheese, small and semifirm.
Padraccio del Pollino
Basilicata
Goat
Fresh raw milk cheese with white flesh and no rind.
Palermitano
Sicily
Cow
In the plastic curd family; soaked in a salt brine, aged 1 month or longer.
Pallone di Gravina
Apulia
Cow
Semifirm Provolone shaped like a ball.
Pannerone
Lombardy
Cow
An unusual cheese made entirely without salt from raw milk; soft and mild with a delicately bitter aftertaste.
Parmigiano-Reggiano DOP
Emilia-Romagna
Cow
King of grating cheeses, this nutty cheese is produced on an artisanal level in 650 tiny dairies scattered across the region.
Pecorino a Pasta Molle
Sardinia
Sheep
Very young Pecorino, often savored with cured meats as an antipasto.
Pecorino Affumicato
Latium/
Calabria
Sheep
Smoked cheese; sometimes studded with black peppercorns, aged about 6 months.
Pecorino Ciociaro
Latium
Sheep
From the Ciociaria; aromatic, light, aged at most 2 months.
Pecorino Crotonese
Calabria
Sheep with the possible addition of goat
From Crotone; dry-salted or soaked in a salt brine, aged from 3 months to more than 1 year.
Pecorino d'Abruzzo
Abruzzo
Sheep
Older specimens can be aged 2 years and are quite pungent.
Pecorino delle Navette
Liguria
Sheep
Has a glorious scent of grass.
Pecorino di Amatrice
Latium
Sheep
Dipped in a salt brine; delicate, aged 3 to 6 months.
Pecorino di Guglionesi
Molise
Sheep
Pungent, aromatic, and firm.
Pecorino in Foja de Noce
The Marches
Sheep
From Carpegna; intensely aromatic, wrapped in walnut leaves.
Pecorino Lucano
Basilicata
Sheep
Firm, crumbly, and straw-yellow in color; aged 2 months to 1 year.
Pecorino Misto di Filiano
Basilicata
Sheep and goat
Firm cheese; aged in underground caves.
Pecorino Romano DOP
Latium/
Sardinia
Sheep
From pasteurized milk; salted over a period of 2 months, rubbed with olive oil, and aged 8 to 12 months. Despite its name, Sardinia is the biggest producer of this classic cheese.
Pecorino Sardo DOP
Sardinia
Sheep
The young is aged up to 2 months, the aged up to 6 months. Both are wonderful on the grill.
Pecorino Siciliano DOP
Sicily
Sheep
Firm, crumbly cheese; pale straw-yellow in color, salty, and pungent.
Pecorino Toscano DOP
Tuscany/
Latium
Sheep
Mild and milky in flavor when young, pungent and crumbly when aged.
Pepato Siciliano
Sicily
Sheep
Firm Pecorino studded with peppercorns; crumbly, firm, and sharp.
Peretta
Sardinia
Cow
Plastic curd cheese similar to Scamorza; often grilled.
Piacentino or Piacintinu
Sicily
Sheep
Scented with saffron and studded with black peppercorns; firm and sharp.
Piave
The Veneto
Cow
Straw-yellow in color, cured in a salt brine; considered Fresco after 2 months of aging, Mezzano after 6 months, and Stravecchio after 10 months, yet retains its mild, delicate flavor even as it ages.
Prescinseua
Liguria
Cow
Uniquely Ligurian dairy product halfway between cheese and soured milk that is used in pesto and in sauces; tasty on bread, dusted with sugar for breakfast.
Pressato di Merano
Trentino-
Alto Adige
Cow
Salt brine-cured cheese; aged up to 2 years and has marvelous melting potential.
Primo Sale
Apulia/
Sicily
Sheep or goat
Salted once. In Apulia it is typically sold very young, while in Sicily it is usually aged.
Provala di Bufala
Apulia
Water buffalo
Fresh Provolone with a porcelain-white color and creamy texture.
Provatura
Latium
Water buffalo
Similar to Mozzarella but saltier and more decided in flavor.
Provola dei Nebrodi e delle Madonie
Sicily
Cow
Pear-shaped cheese aged 3 to 4 months. It can also be formed to resemble animals.
Provola Siciliana
Sicily
Cow
Plastic curd cheese; pear-shaped, smaller than Caciocavallo, semifirm and good for melting.
Provolone Valpadana DOP
Lombardy
Cow
Belongs to the family of pasta filata, or "plastic curd cheeses; molded by hand into its classic pear shape and tied by a short noose. It melts beautifully.
Puzzone di Moena
Trentino-
Alto Adige
Cow
Compact, elastic cheese aged from 6 months to 2 years; quite pungent. It is sometimes sold under the name of Spetz Tsaori.
Quartirolo Lombardo DOP
Lombardy
Cow
Resembles Taleggio; aged from 5 days to 1 month, it is soft and creamy, becoming slightly bitter as it ages.
Ragusano or Caciocavallo Ragusano DOP
Sicily
Cow
Has a smooth, thin skin, no rind, and creamy color. When young, it is excellent on the grill; as it ages, it becomes better suited for grating.
Raschera DOP
Piedmont
Cow with the possible addition of goat or sheep
Aged at least 1 month, it is firm but elastic, with a thin grayish-red rind. Melts very nicely and is similar to Fontina.
Raviggiolo
The Marches/
Tuscany
Cow, sheep, or goat
Flat, creamy, Ricotta-like cheese; aged 5 days, it is spreadable, buttery, and creamy.
Reblèque
Val d'Aosta
Cow
Rich, fresh cheese produced in small artisanal dairies; traditionally eaten dusted with sugar and a pinch of cinnamon.
Reblochon
Piedmont
Cow
Full-fat cheese; the rind is rubbed with flour. It vaguely recalls Brie.
Ricotta
Across Italy
Cow, goat, or sheep
Usually sold fresh, when it is creamy and spreadable. Versions that are spiced, aged, or smoked also exist.
Ricotta Affumicata
Friuli-
Venezia Giulia
Cow
Smoked, firm Ricotta obtained from the leftover whey from making Montasio; good for grating.
Ricotta Calabrese
Calabria
Sheep and/or goat
Unusual Ricotta obtained not from the leftover whey from cheese-making, but from milk, whey, and salt; aged from 2 to 6 months.
Ricotta di Capra della Sabina
Latium
Goat
Creamy, white Ricotta; used mostly for cooking and baking.
Ricotta di Fregona
The Veneto
Cow
Smoked Ricotta.
Ricotta Forte
Apulia
Sheep and/or goat
Sharp, spreadable, fermented Ricotta; sometimes flavored with pepper and vinegar.
Ricotta Infornata
Sicily
Sheep
Baked Ricotta that develops a thin reddish-brown rind in the oven; sometimes flavored with black pepper.
Ricotta Marzotica
Apulia
Cow or sheep
Ricotta whose fermentation starts in March; it sports a light coating of mold after 1 month of aging and can be smoked.
Ricotta Mista and Ricotta Forte
Basilicata
Sheep or goat
Ricotta that becomes sharp with age; the Forte, "strong, is aged up to 3 months and is best grated.
Ricotta Romana
Latium
Sheep
Ricotta sold fresh (Fresca) for desserts and pastries or salted (Salata) for grating.
Ricotta Salata
Apulia/
Basilicata/
Calabria/Sicily
Sheep or cow
Salted Ricotta; firm, crumbly, meant for grating.
Robiola del Bec
Piedmont
Goat
Rare cheese, sharp yet milky in flavor, with a grassy scent.
Robiola di Pecora
Piedmont
Sheep
Robiola that sports a reddish rind when aged; it has a soft flesh and mild, creamy flavor.
Robiola di Roccaverano DOP
Piedmont
Cow, sheep, and goat
Made near Asti, this creamy, spreadable Robiola is aged only a few days; it is often conserved under a layer of olive oil.
Rossellino
Tuscany
Sheep
Pecorino whose rind is rubbed with olive oil, acquiring a lovely red color as it ages.
Salignun
Val d'Aosta/
Piedmont
Cow
Spreadable Ricotta flavored with pepper, caraway, chili, or fennel seed.
Sarazzu
Liguria
Cow
Salted Ricotta aged at least 1 month.
Scamorza
Abruzzo
Cow
Pear-shaped plastic curd cheese; buttery and delicate, it is best within 3 days of production. The smoked version is usually grilled or spit-roasted.
Scamorza di Bufala
Campania
Water buffalo
Firmer than Mozzarella, softer than Caciocavallo; aged a few days after a soak in salt water.
Schiz
The Veneto
Cow
Cheese obtained from the curds that seep out of molds used for making other cheeses.
Scimudin
Lombardy
Goat or cow
Classic mountain cheese, soft, creamy in flavor, and mild, matured 3 to 4 weeks.
Seirass
Piedmont
Cow
Piedmontese Ricotta; fresh, creamy, and spreadable.
Silter
Lombardy
Cow
Ripened from 6 months to 1 year; recalls Friuli's Montasio.
Slattato
The Marches
Cow
Fresh, creamy cheese without a rind, similar to the Crescenza of Lombardy and Squaquarone of Romagna; wrapped in walnut or fig leaves after 7 days.
Spressa
Trentino-
Alto Adige
Cow
Aromatic cheese produced from winter milk; aged as long as 2 years.
Squaquarone
Emilia-Romagna
Cow
Similar to the Stracchino of Lombardy, this cheese is creamy, mild, and fresh.
Stracciatella
Apulia
Cow
The rich, creamy stuffing of Burrata served in majolica pots.
Stracchino
Lombardy
Cow
Creamy, spreadable, and slightly tangy; similar to Crescenza.
Tabor di Monrupino
Friuli-
Venezia Giulia
Cow
Semifirm cheese that acquires a pleasantly pungent flavor when aged.
Taleggio DOP
Lombardy
Cow
Born around the turn of the second millennium in the Val Taleggio, this cheese is aged about 40 days and has a buttery taste and a rind with an aroma of truffles.
Toma
Val d'Aosta/
Piedmont/
Liguria
Cow
Family of cheeses produced from raw or pasteurized milk; aged from 3 to 18 months.
Toma Piemontese DOP
Piedmont
Cow
Cylindrical cheese with a delicate, creamy flavor, yellow-to-reddish rind, and compact flesh; aged from 15 days to 2 months.
Toma di Pecora or Toma Mista
Basilicata
Sheep with the possible addition of goat
From unpasteurized milk; cured in a salt brine, delicate in flavor, and aged 2 months or longer.
Tomini
Val d'Aosta/
Piedmont
Cow with the possible addition of sheep or goat
Small cheeses, fresh and white, usually drizzled with wine vinegar and flavored with garlic and chili.
Toscanello
Tuscany
Sheep
Large wheel of Pecorino Toscano; aged 6 months, sometimes spiced with black peppercorns.
Tosella
Trentino-
Alto Adige
Cow
Unique cheese from the Valle del Primerio; matured a mere 2 to 3 days.
Trarcantu
Liguria
Cow
Raw milk cheese aged 5 months in wooden barrels, repeatedly doused with wine, and flavored with the lees of Sciacchetrà (a raisined dessert wine).
Tuma
Sicily
Sheep
Fresh, white, semi-firm cheese.
Valle d'Aosta Formadzo DOP
Val d'Aosta
Cow
Firm cheese with a milky flavor and grassy scent; salt-brined, then aged 2 to 10 months.
Valtellina Casera DOP
Lombardy
Cow
The Valtellina's most important cheese; ripened at least 70 days, ivory in color and soft.
Vastedda del Belice
Sicily
Sheep
Plastic curd cheese; melts beautifully.
Vastedda Palermitana
Sicily
Cow
Plastic curd cheese; shaped into an oval and eaten after 2 days of salting.
Vezzena
Trentino-
Alto Adige
Cow
Compact, elastic mountain cheese aged from 6 months to 2 years, produced at an altitude of 3,000 feet.