The cheeses of Italy are varied and complex, they come from cows, goats, sheep and even water buffalo! In order to give you a brief look at Italian cheeses we’d need a very big book, there are hundreds of types and variations of each of them. I am going to focus on some of the more well known, popular and delicious Italian cheeses you can find in your local supermarket, and will also mention a couple you’ll find in an international or Italian grocer.
Popular Italian Cheeses
- Gorgonzola – Made from cow’s milk, this king of Italian cheese is famous for being “blue” when it’s actually green! Pairs well with apples, pears and peaches. Wonderful to cook with, has a sharp fragrance and is creamy -crumbly.
- Mascarpone – Made from cow’s milk, this 88 percent butterfat cheese is like cheese flavored butter. It’s slightly tart, and easily perishable so take care to keep cold.
- Mozzarella – The good stuff is made from water buffalo milk, mass produced is from cow’s milk. The water buffalo cheese can be very pungent, very difficult to find and extremely expensive. Both cow’s and water buffalo mozzarella is stringy and pully and is indispensable in Italian cooking.
- Parmigiano – Made from cow’s milk. If there can be a second “king” of Italian cheeses it’s this one because it’s a stable of many Italian dishes. Grated fresh or eaten in a chunk, it is pure heaven. Smooth luscious and superbly flavored.
- Provolone – Like Mozzarella, the good stuff (another way of saying very expensive) is made from water buffalo milk and cow’s milk commerically. Mild fragrance and rubbery texture, it brings out the flavor in other ingredients making it a stable in Italian cooking.
- Ricotta – Made from goat, sheep, water buffalo and here in the U.S. from cow’s milk. Another indespensable cheese in Italin cooking, it’s equally at home in a pasta dish like lasagne or a dessert like cannoli or ricotta pudding. Has a great taste and is so versatile!
Exotic And Hard To Find (In The United States)
- Robiola – Made from varying amounts of goat, sheep and cow’s milk, this fresh, soft and sometimes runny cheese is found in Northern Italy. Is piquant yet smooth, and has a wonderful aftertaste Good with pears and apples for dessert.
- Stracchino – Made from cow’s milk this cheese gets it name from a city near Bergamo. Folkore says the cheese has a “tired” flavor because the cows were moved constantly from field to field tiring them out. This moving from field to field is probably true but the different grasses found in each field is probably what made the milk taste differently, or “tired”. The cheese is soft, creamy and almost nutty in flavor, it can be paired with anything.