There are not many things in this life better than cheese. Whether it’s melted on top of pizza, sprinkled on top of pasta or baked into homemade lasagna, cheese has the power to make a good dish great. Luckily, Italy has provided us with a variety of delicious cheeses to try. Here are 9 Italian cheeses you should be cooking with!
As the most popular cheese in America, it’s safe to say that if you’ve tried cheese, you’ve most likely tried mozzarella. Rich and creamy, traditional Italian mozzarella is made from fresh buffalo milk and should be eaten quickly. Buffalo mozzarella is protected under the DOP and can only be produced with a traditional recipe in select locations in the regions of Campania, Lazio, Apulia and Molise. In fact, the stuff you get on pizza is typically a low-moisture variety made specifically for that purpose. At Mici, we use premium quality Bacio (meaning “kiss”) cheese, which is “kissed” with Buffalo milk to enhance both the taste and performance of our pizza cheese.
Originating in Southern Italy, provolone is a semi-soft cheese made from full-fat cow’s milk. Today, it’s made mostly in Lombardia and Veneto in the Northern part of the country. There are two main types of provolone: a sweet Dolce (aged for 2-3 months) and a sharp and salty Piccante (aged for 4 months). If you love provolone, try these Mici dishes:
- Vela Pizza (olive oil, mozzarella, provolone, ricotta, Italian sausage)
- Verdura Panini (fresh mozzarella, provolone, spinach, tomatoes, roasted red peppers, pesto and aioli)
- Tacchino Panini (turkey, spinach, tomatoes, provolone and pesto)
Similar to bleu cheese, gorgonzola is a sharp blue-veined cheese that most people either love or hate. With a soft, yet crumbly texture, this Italian cow’s milk cheese is nutty and rich. It is oftentimes served as an appetizer with well-structured aged red wines, like Barolo and Barbaresco. At Mici, we love using gorgonzola and use it in many of our recipes:
- Creamy Gorgonzola salad dressing
- Insalata di Spinaci (fresh spinach topped with pancetta, tomatoes and gorgonzola)
- Insalata della Casa (mixed greens topped with toasted walnuts, red grapes and gorgonzola)
- Bruschetta Bianca (garlic bread topped with melted gorgonzola and honey)
- Palermo Panini (capicola, salami, ham, pepperoncini, roasted red peppers, spinach, mozzarella, gorgonzola and aioli)
- DiGirolomo (a white pizza with an olive oil base, topped with mozzarella, gorgonzola, julienned pepperoni and diced pepperoncini)
A whey cheese, ricotta can be made from a variety of milk types, from sheep to cow to even goat. In Italian cuisine, there is an unspoken rule that nothing should ever go to waste, so what’s most interesting about this cheese is that it is made from the leftover milk during the production of other cheeses. Ricotta curds are light, creamy and mild in taste, which makes it a great base and add-in for many famous Italian dishes. Try dollops of ricotta on Mici’s Vela Pizza (Olive oil, mozzarella, provolone, ricotta, Italian sausage) or in our homemade lasagna!
Another DOP-protected cheese, asiago has been made in the Veneto region for more than a thousand years and is central to Northern Italy’s culinary history. This popular cheese comes in a variety of textures, depending on the aging process. Fresh asiago (Asiago Pressato) is smooth while aged asiago (Asiago d’allevo) is crumbly. At Mici, we use asiago on our:
- Toscana panini (grilled chicken breast, asiago, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach and pesto)
- Pizza di Mora (olive oil, mozzarella, asiago, chicken, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes).
Referred to as the “King of Cheeses,” true Parmigiano-Reggiano is something every cheese lover needs to try in their life. A dry, hard cheese made from skim or part-skim cow’s milk and aged for at least two years, Parmigiano-Reggiano is typically served grated on top of pasta dishes. Authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano is DOP-protected and produced in either Bologna, Mantua, Modena or Parma. The American version, parmesan, is not regulated, and is typically an imitation. At Mici, we use Parmigiano-Reggiano as an ingredient in our:
- Alfredo sauce
- Caesar salad
- Minestra di fagioli.
While not a specific cheese, pecorino is actually the name of all cheeses made from sheep’s milk. The four classic (and DOP-protected) types of pecorino are romano, sardo, siciliano and toscano. The texture of pecorino depends on its age, with the younger-aged cheeses being soft, creamy and mild while the older ones are hard, crumbly and buttery. The more aged options make a less expensive alternative to the classic Parmigiano-Reggiano!
We were lucky enough to make fresh pecorino cheese in our trip to Italy last summer:
Made from whole cream and tartaric or citric acid, mascarpone is a smooth, thick and rich cheese that’s oftentimes a signature ingredient in Italian desserts (like Mici’s mini cannolis with mascarpone/chocolate chip filling). It is similar to American cream cheese, English clotted cream and French creme fraiche, adding thickness and creaminess to meals both sweet and savory.
With an almost identical appearance to fresh mozzarella, burrata is, in fact, made from mozzarella with added cream, creating a structured shell with a soft and creamy inside. First produced as a way to use the leftover scraps (or ritagli) of mozzarella, burrata has now become a signature Italian cheese.
If you consider yourself to be a cheese enthusiast (and who isn’t?), you should add these Italian cheeses to your list! The best part is that you can stop by Mici to try a wide variety of these cheeses.