Cheese, the magical ingredient was invented centuries ago in Poland. A fortunate accident changed the face of the culinary world and ever since, cheese has been a revolutionary ingredient in our kitchens, no doubt. What was once considered an ingredient that was most appreciated only by the elite, is now a go-to supplement. Its taste, texture, nutrient values and usage is an outcome of the type of milk used, environment conditions, breed of animal that has produced the milk and its dietary routine.
The most common base used to make cheese is the cow’s milk which is due to its abundance. The world’s favourite Cheddar and Parmesan are the byproducts of cow’s milk. Apart from cow’s milk, buffalo, sheep, goat and yak’s milk is used in the process of cheesing depending on the availability in the region.
Of all the cheeses this world has been a home to, cheeses of Italy steals a significant space in the chart in terms of popularity and authenticity.
Italians and their absolute love for cheese:
Italians are serious about their food, and cheese is the crown jewel of the Italian preparations and the heart giver to every dish. Food being an integral part of Italy’s culture, Italians’ love for fresh homemade food aspires quality ingredients. Their cheeses go beyond the cheddar and mozzarella! The country’s cheese making tradition dates back to prior the Roman empire, and the variety of cheeses are directly factored on the history, geography, and culture of every region of Italy. Italians are proud locavores, and your visit to different parts of the country offers you cheeses that are locally produced.
Let’s decipher the Italian cheese code of some of their best they offer to the world –
Italian’s dearest cheese is made of cow’s milk from the Asiago plateau at foothills of Veneto, Italy. This is a smooth and mild cheese at the beginning of its life cycle and used in making sauces and omelets. Its age only adds to its beauty as it gets hard in its texture and stronger in its flavour. The aged cheese is commonly used to grate over pasta, salads and soups. If you lay your hand on Asiago cheese with a stamp of ‘product of the mountains’, just know that it’s a treasure produced at an altitude higher than 600 meters.
Fontina or Fontella cheese:
The rich grass the cows feed on gives a distinctive and pungent aroma to this semi-soft and nutty flavoured cheese. With a natural rind in the shades of orange and brown, this variety is used mostly in making a fondue and the choicest pick of the Alps dwellers.
Mozzarella is the cheese of choice for most dishes simply because of its low melting point, which is a result of its freshness. The traditional Mozzarella is white in colour, high on moisture content which makes it one of the smoothest variety of cheese and also perishable. However, with progression in technology, vacuumed packets can preserve it for over 6 months. It is commonly used in pizzas, pasta and lasagnas.
Ricotta is a white, smooth and sweet cheese made of cow, buffalo or goat’s milk. It is a dream cheese with high protein content and less fat. It sees a wide variety of uses from being a simple dip for your pitas to adding the right bite to those cheesecakes. Ricotta is sure a star.
Parmigiano – Regiano:
Better known as Parmesan to the rest of the world, it receives its name from its place of origin – Parma, Reggio Emilia, Bologna and Modena of Italy. This 900 YO invention is a hard flaky cheese that’s preservative free and a result of prolonged aging.
Parmigiano – Regiano is a nutty and fruity flavored cheese with a tinge of Umami to it. Its rind in infused into soups, cubes are paired with jams and dry fruits, ribbons are used in salads, while grated cheese is used to make Raviolis. Its versatile usage and multi layered flavors makes Parmigiano – Regiano deserving winner of the title – King of cheeses.
Finding its roots in the Southern regions of Italy, the term Buratta translates itself to Butter. A well deserved title, Buratta has a thick layer of Mozzarella on the outside and creamy textured cheese on the inside. Its sweet flavor compliments the acidic notes of citric fruits, tomatoes etc, Thus, best relished with salads and appetizers. This fresh, perishable cheese is best consumed within 24 hours after its preparation.
A seasoned provolone is aged for over 4 months to give it a grainy and semi-hard texture. This pale yellow colored cheese hails from the Po valley in southern Italy. The texture and taste of Provolone changes as it ages. What’s initially a sweet and smooth transforms to a hard and spicy cheese, making it a unique type in itself.