Italy’s cheeses, like it’s people, are regionally diverse. Each region is prone to using the local cheese in cooking and serving.
In Tuscany, the local cheese is Pecorino Toscano. Pecorino is the general Italian term for a sheep’s cheese, and the Pecorino Toscano DOC is the cheese of Tuscany – 100% sheep’s milk, Pecorino Toscano is one of the most delightful Pecorinos of Italy. Typically served on its own or with slices of prosciutto, salad, fava beans or crusty bread. This cheese is bone colored, oily and simply delicious.
Other top cheese of Italy integral in cooking many Italian dishes:
From the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, Parmigiano-Reggiano is a DOC that is often imitated. Parmesean is a grana cheese, which means it becomes flaky when grated. Perfect for grating atop pasta dishes or baking on lasagna or gratins.
The famous blue cheese of Lombardy, Gorgonzola comes in two ways – dolce, which means sweet, and naturale, which is the older and sharper version of the two. Both are delicious on salads, in pasta sauces or by itself with a nice sweet wine.
Originally from Campania, Provolone is made in most areas of Italy, and now in other countries as well. Found most often sliced and processed in the deli section, real provolone is quite different. The older it gets, the more firm and sharp it becomes. When it ages enough, it becomes piccante, or hot & spicy.
Another cheese that is found processed here in the US, Mozzarella has a long history. True Mozzarella, or Mozzarella di bufala, is harder to find, but worth it. It is a pulled cheese and very delicate. It needs to be consumed within days of purchase and is delicious with tomato and basil, tossed with olive oil and salt or with some crusty bread and wine.
Technically not a cheese, Ricotta is a by-product of the leftovers of cheesemaking – the whey. The whey from cow, sheep and or goat can be used for ricotta. It is heated and changed into a curd. Most often used in baking pasta dishes or making desserts, Italian ricotta is known to have a dryer texture and a bit more flavor than American ricotta, which adds texture, but little flavor.