Italy has a great variety of cheese, ranging from fresh, mild creations like mozzarella to aged, hard cheeses with very mature flavor, such as Parmesan. All types of milk are used, including sheep, goat, and buffalo. Italian cheeses can be diviided into four categories: hard semi-soft, soft, and fresh. Many Italian cheeses are eaten at different stages of maturity.
Most Italian cheeses can be be eaten on their own and used for cooking. This guide describes some of Italy's best known and most loved cheeses.
This deliciously creamy cheese, pronounced boor-RAH-tah, is a specialty of Southern Italy, especially the regions of Puglia, Campania, and Basilicata.
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Real Parmigiano-Reggiano can only be made in a defined region of northern Italy that includes the counties of Parma and Reggio Emilia in Emilia-Romagna.
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The word ricotta literally means 'recooked', and it describes the cheese made when whey, the watery residue from the making of another cheese, is cooked again.
How to make homemade ricotta >>
A cheese tray with various accompaniments is wonderful as a light lunch or dinner served with wine or beer. Also think of serving a cheese tray for a small gathering of friends before or after attending a special event.
Creating a Cheese Tray >>
Always wrap a soft cheese in parchment or wax paper; rewrap it in a new piece after each use to prolong freshness. These breathable materials prevent mold-causing moisture from collecting on the surface without drying it out. Only after it's wrapped should you put the cheese in a plastic bag or plastic wrap. Hard cheeses, such as Parmesan, can be stored directly in plastic wrap. Because of their low moisture content, hard cheeses aren't at as much risk of drying out.
Store cheese in the vegetable crisper area of your refrigerator. This area is warmer than the rest of the fridge but still cool and dry enough. The flavor of cheese constantly evolves as it ages, even after you bring it home. Very cold temperatures will stall its flavor development, while too much heat or humidilty will encourage bacterial growth, leading to mold.
SERVE IT IN STYLE
This multipurpose serving bowl is ideal for serving Parmesan cheese at the table. It also works great for storing salt on your counter-top, serving sugar for your coffee, cranberry sauce for your turkey, chocolate sprinkles for your ice cream, Jalapeno peppers and salsa for your Mexican dishes, and condiments on your dining and buffet table.
Bocconcini, meaning little mouthfuls in Italian, are the smallest form of creamy, fresh mozzarella. The cheese is commonly packaged in water or whey but can sometimes be found marinated in olive oil and herbs. Serve bocconcini in salads, as an addition to an antipasto platter, on toothpicks with grape tomatoes and a basil leaf, wrapped with prosciutto or with cubes of salami or mortadella for an easy hors d' oeuvre.