This week we’re smiling about three great Italian cheeses we’ll be sampling on Saturday — just three of the more than 600 kinds of delicious Italian cheese. About 50 of those have been awarded PDO (protected designation of origin) status. The Italians are serious about their cheese, and PDO status guarantees that the cheese is of the highest quality, has been made in the traditional manner, using prescribed types of milk, and is produced and packaged in a specific geographic area. One of the delights of traveling through Italy is encountering the town where a particular cheese is made and knowing it’s not made anywhere else.
Say “Formaggio”! Here are three Italian cheeses guaranteed to make you smile. We hope to see you Saturday for our “Taste of Italy” event, noon until four.
Burrata resembles the finest Mozzarella — in fact, it’s made from Mozzarella with cream added — but its taste is buttery and the texture is much softer. Burrata (which means “butter”) is a pouch of Mozzarella that is filled with creamy authentic panna di latte and pasta filata. The result is a rich explosion on your plate when it is sliced open and the creamy exterior oozes out.
Luscious and sophisticated, this Italian treasure is hand-crafted and then packaged in purified water to ensure freshness.
Try the classic tomatoes and Burrata pairing: Place it in the center of a board with roasted peppers, fresh heirloom tomatoes, a little basil, a sprinkle of salt and fresh cracked black pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with crostini or grilled bread. Invite your friends or family to dig in for a delicious and interactive experience. Here’s how Ina Garten does it.
To see how Burrata is made, check out this video.
Origin: Italy (Puglia Region)
Rennet type: Animal
Look: A little dumpling
Feel: Springy. Soft shell, creamy center
Smell: Fresh, lactic
Taste: Mild, fresh
Pairs well with: The classic pairing is with tomatoes, basil, olive oil, and crunchy bread. Use it the same way you would use Mozzarella.
Tastes good with: Prosecco, Sauvignon Blanc, young Chianti
Here’s a cheese that you can’t stop eating. Think of the sweetness of aged Gouda married to the walnut flavor of Gruyere, and you’ll get the picture.
Named after the Piave River that originates in the Alps and meanders through Veneto, Piave is available in five different stages, from 20 days to 18 months. At Tastings, we have the year-old Piave, Piave Vecchio Selezione Oro, which is the fourth of the five stages. A PDO-protected cheese, you can tell it’s authentic by examining the rind and seeing the word Piave imprinted repeatedly. PDO is the European Community’s highest standard of quality. To be called Piave, the cheese must be made within the province of Belluno and the milk must come from indigenous Bruna Alpa cows. The distinctive taste comes from the wild grasses and mineral springs found in the Dolomites.
It is sometimes called “Parmesan’s cousin” due to some similarities in flavor and texture. It has a savory umami flavor similar to Parmesan’s but the taste is lighter, fresher and less salty.
Piave is the perfect table cheese and is also a great grater! A great addition to your cheeseboard, Piave plays well with other cheeses!
Origin: Italy (Veneto region; Belluno Dolomites area)
Rennet type: Vegetarian
Age: 1 year
Look: Straw-colored pate
Feel: Hard, dense, flaky
Taste: Mild, sweet, nutty; flavor intensifies with age
Pairs well with: Honey, figs, Balsamic vinegar. Use as you would Parmesan: over pastas, in soups, or by itself. Try it shaved over an arugula salad! I’ve got just the recipe. . . Substitute Piave for the Parmesan.
Tastes good with: Both red and white wines as well as amber ale and IPAs. Red pairings include Amarone and Barolo.Sottocenere al Tartufo
Sottocenere al Tartufo
A jewel of a cheese, Sottocenere means “under ash” in Italian but we think it means “decadent,” especially with the addition of black truffles (“al tartufo”). The ashy rind is an old Venetian technique to protect the aromatics of the cheese as it ages. The veggie ash includes nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, licorice, and fennel. The spices also add subtle favor to the cheese, but the real flavor is from the truffles and truffle oil.
This cheese shines on its own or as the show-stopping center of your cheeseboard.
Origin: Italy (Veneto region)
Milk: Pasteurized cow
Rennet type: Animal
Age: 3-6 months
Look: Pale yellow, studded with pieces of black truffle. The rind is dove-gray ash.
Feel: Semi-soft, firm, smooth
Smell: Aromatic, truffle-y
Taste: Creamy, salty, truffle-y
Pairs well with: Use it in mac and cheese, risottos, grilled cheese sandwiches, omelets – or by itself with a great Italian wine. Make it the star of your show.
Tastes good with: Barbera, Barbaresco, Lambrusco, Chenin Blanc