Italy is known for its cheeses and its style of eating them. Unlike French cheeses that are served before or after a meal, Italian cheeses are enjoyed throughout the meal. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner, you’ll find cheese on the Italian table. An Italian table setting is not complete without a large hunk of cheese on a plate with a grater nearby. Grated, slivered, or eaten alone, Italian cheese is part of la dolce vita.
Italy boasts more than 400 types of cheese. Each region of Italy has its own cheese and production methods, meaning that no matter where you are in Italy, you’ll have new cheese to enjoy. Pecorino from Sicily is not the same as Pecorino from Sardinia, and that discovery will add to your enjoyment.
We’re setting our table with three of our new favorites.
Now comes a scrumptious marriage of beer and cheese in this delicious frumage from Piedmont. (“Frumage” in Piedmontese translatesto “cheese.”) Not only is the cheese infused with beer, it is also hand washed repeatedly with artisan malt and brown ale as it ages.
The result is a soft, unctuous cheese with aromas of beer, coffee, and chocolate. The rind, which is rubbed with a renowned craft beer (Baladin), is completely edible.
Frumage L’Ottavio is made using traditional techniques and from local milk. The rennet (which coagulates the cheese) comes from a local thistle, Cynara cardunculs. Sicilian salt is added.
Origin: Italy (Piedmont region)
Producer: Fattorie Fiandino
Milk: Raw cow
Rennet type: Vegetable
Age: 60+ days
Look: Brown rind, white paste with flecks of brown
Feel: Soft, creamy texture
Smell: Mild aromas of beer, malt, cocoa, coffee
Taste: Mild and delicate with hints of coffee and chocolate. Aftertaste of barley malts.
Tastes good with: Almonds, pretzels, prosciutto
Pairs well with: Dark malty beers especially Stout
Piccolo Truffle is a young sheep’s milk cheese that contains shavings of exotic Black Summer Truffles to create the perfect blend. Just the right amount of truffles are added to ensure the flavor is enhanced without overwhelming the spectacular goodness of the cheese itself.
A true high-end product, the cheese is laced with generous slices of truffles, not little pieces. Its bold, slightly rich flavor is complemented by a punch of earthy truffle. The cheese has a creamy mouthfeel and an unforgettable taste.
Enjoy it with red wine, but avoid anything too tannic as it will detract from the truffles.
Origin: Italy (Sardinia)
Producer: Central Formaggi
Milk: Pasteurized sheep’s milk
Rennet type: Animal
Age: 15-20 days
Look: White, littered with large black truffle shavings
Feel: Semi-hard, creamy
Taste: Bold, slightly rich, truffles
Tastes good with: Olives, crackers. Add a slice to your favorite grilled sandwich.
Pairs well with: Red wine
There are many kinds of Pecorino and this particular one is less common than most. Pecorinos vary in their production and style depending on where you are in Italy, but they have two things in common. First they’re hard and make excellent grating cheeses. Second, they’re all made from sheep’s milk (pecora means sheep in Italian).
Pecorino is famous for its sweet and salty flavor, but the Sfizio boasts a “sheepy-ness” and a citrus zing that other Pecorinos lack. It is salty, sweet, and slightly stronger in taste than other Pecorinos.
Excellent for snacking and as a table cheese, it is a hard, dry cheese with a nutty, meaty flavor that will remind you of Parmigiano and Pecorino Romano. Made from sheep’s milk when it is most flavorful and plentiful, this artisanal cheese is rich with natural oil that makes the cheese’s exterior a little bit oily. The wicker pattern on the rind make it a standout on your cheeseboard.
Origin: Italy (Lazio region)
Milk: Pasteurized sheep
Rennet type: Animal
Rind: Natural, aged in wicker baskets, giving it a lovely ribbed pattern
Age: 4 months
Look: Pale yellow paste with a golden rind
Feel: Compact, hard
Taste: Intense, salty, sweet, tangy
Tastes good with: Honey, quince chutney. Enjoy this cheese with good bread and grated onto pasta, salads and vegetables.
Pairs well with: Red wines, especially Barbera and Brunello