03 July 2018   •   Redazione

Italian cheese: here are the 5 most famous (and envied) in the world

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«Italian cheese are among the most popular, even abroad. Here are the most beautiful stories we have to tell about these Made in Italy specialties »

Italian cheese are many and many of these are among the best sellers (and most envied) in the world. Our cheese production is very wide and contains within it years of history, tradition and use of materials and unique production systems. Today we will tell you anecdotes, stories and curiosities about the world of made in Italy cheese, from seasoned to soft cheese. In particular, we will focus on the top five PDO and IGP cheeses, that have always held high Italian culinary pride in the world. Let’s start right away.

Italian cheese: how many types of cheese exist?

Before telling you something more about the 5 cheeses that we have included in our top five, we answer one of the most widespread curiosities in this field: how many types of cheese exist?

Let’s start from the origins: the term cheese comes from the medieval Latin caseum formaticum, a term that indicated the cheese put into shape. Cheese is an ancient tradition in our country, which comes from the milk of various animal species, through the coagulation of casein. The milk coagulation process is facilitated by bacterial enzymes, plants and rennet, a substance derived from the stomach of calves, kids and lambs. From the ” curd ” you can get different types of cheese. To simplify, one of the most used classifications examines the consistency of the cheese, based on which we identify:

  • Soft cheeses
  • Semi-hard cheeses
  • Hard cheeses

For example, among the Italian soft cheeses we identify the sweet Gorgonzola and the Squacquerone di Romagna; among those with semi-hard dough we place Asiago, Caciocavallo and Fontina and among those with hard dough the Pecorino and Parmigiano Reggiano.

Classifying Italian cheese by region would be a titanic enterprise, but to answer our initial question, just think that the estimate of PDO cheeses alone is around 50 specialties. Also counting the PGI, the PAT and the unregistered cheeses, in Italy we produce about 400 types of this dairy product.

Let’s see now some more anecdotes about the five Italian cheeses, famous all over the world.

READ ALSO – Typical Italian dishes: here are 10 recipes that have made our kitchen great

Fossa di Sogliano cheese PDO

Among the culinary excellence of Emilia Romagna, Fossa di Sogliano cheese is one of the most loved specialties in our Peninsula. Despite being originally from Sogliano al Rubicone (FC), it is also produced in Talamello (RN) and Sant’Agata Feltria (RN). But what is the particularity of this cheese? It is called “di fossa” because it is aged for three months in typical oval-shaped pits, dug into the rock. The use of the tuff pit, of which there were traces already in 1497, had a twofold function: in autumn it was used to preserve the cheese and at other times of the year it was used to store the grain to preserve it from the raids of the soldiers.

Gorgonzola DOP

If you want to know Italian cheese from A to Z, you cannot ignore the Gorgonzola DOP. It is a cheese produced in the province of Milan of the blue-veined type, which takes its name from the homonymous production town. The origins of this cheese are still very much discussed. From some reconstructions, it seems that the first traces of Gorgonzola date back to the 15th century, right in the town that goes by the same name.

Legend has it that a herdsman, arrived in Gorgonzola, left in a container of curdled milk; at a later stop, being devoid of the necessary tools for processing milk, he added another curd to the first curd. After several days he realized that he had obtained a cheese with green veins, very appetizing for mixing the cold curd of the evening with the warm morning curd. From here the Gorgonzola developed (almost) as we know it today, so much that in the 19th century it had a rapid spread outside the national borders, until arriving in England.


Casu Frazigu

Now we come to a very special italian cheese, that all the Sardinians will know very well: the Casu frazigu or casu marzu, depending on the areas where you will be eating it. It is pecorino cheese, or rather goat cheese, subjected to the larvae of the cheese fly, whose eggs feed on the form itself and develop inside it.

Amongst the Italian cheeses, it has a very special taste, but it’s certainly worth trying if you want something different from the usual. The casu frazigu, despite its “strangeness”, is not the only one among Italian cheeses to undergo a processing with cheese flies: other examples include the casu puntu salentino and the Friulian salterello .

Parmigiano Reggiano DOP

Here is the true king of national cheeses: Parmigiano Reggiano. Among the most loved and exported in the world, Parmigiano Reggiano has its origins in the Middle Ages: Boccaccio also speaks of it in the Decameron, which leads one to think that it had originated earlier. Historically, the cradle of Parmigiano Reggiano was in the 12th century. The first toll booths appeared next to the great monasteries and castles: they were small buildings with a square or polygonal plan, where the milk was made.

To date, this Italian cheese is produced in the provinces of Parma, Reggio nell’Emilia and Modena, also touching part of the provinces of Bologna and Mantua. A museum is also dedicated to Parmigiano Reggiano, located inside the Corte Castellazzi in Soragna, in the province of Parma. Want to know a little curiosity? Parmigiano Reggiano is the most counterfeited Italian cheese in the world, often labeled with the name parmesan.

Pecorino Rosso

We conclude our journey to discover Italian cheese with a classic Sicilian cheese: the Pecorino Rosso. This cheese has a unique characteristic, from which its name derives: during aging, as well as with olive oil, the cheese is also rubbed with tomato sauce, which gives it the typical red color. This processing occurs only in the Pecorino typically produced in Sicily, although Italy produces many other pecorino cheeses, often flavored with chili.

Talking about pecorino, we leave you with a curiosity about Pecorino Romano: did you know that, despite the name, about 90% of its processing takes place in Sardinia, and not Rome?

Snap Italy wishes you a good cheese tasting!

Jessica Simonetti

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