Cheese is a universal ingredient loved by people around the world, but there is something about this ingredient that is unique to Italian cuisine. One can relish the exotic flavour of cheese in every course. Grated or melted, soft or hard, starter or dessert, cheese dominates the Italian cuisine. Here is a guide to the major cheese types in Italian cuisine.
Cheese can be classified based on several criteria. To begin with, let’s consider the milk that is used to make the cheese. ‘Vacca’ in Italian means cow and so ‘vaccini’ collectively refers to all types of cheese made from cow’s milk. This is predominantly consumed in Northern Italy. As we move to the south, ‘Pecorini’, a type of cheese made from Sheep milk is more common. ‘Caprini’ and ‘Bufalini’ are cheeses made from goat and buffalo milk, which are also consumed in parts of Italy. There is an exclusive class of cheese called, ‘the latte misto’, which is prepared from the milk of different animals.
Based on the firmness, Italian cheeses are classified as soft, semi-soft, and hard cheeses.
Cheese varieties like Ricotta, Mascarpone, and Mozzarella are well-known. Ricotta is extensively used as a filling for pasta and ravioli. On the other hand, Mascarpone is used as an alternative for whipped cream and in desserts like Tiramisu. Mozzarella is known for its creamy flavour and chewy consistency when melted and is used as a topping for pizzas. Margherita is a classic cheese pizza, made originally only from Mozzarella cheese. Burrata is yet another soft cheese that adds a creamy flavour to salads.
- Soft cheeses are creamy and are mostly consumed without cooking.
- You can add these cheeses to top a salad or as a topping on your pizza to enjoy a chewy flavour.
Most semi-soft cheeses are confined for use within Italy and are not popular like the other cheese varieties. Cheese types like Taleggio and Gorgonzola are used in cooking Risotto, an Italian rice delicacy. Scamorza is a semi-soft cheese used as an alternative for Mozzarella. Fontina is a semi-soft cheese that is inevitable in the preparation of Truffle pasta and fondue.
- Semi-soft cheeses have a characteristic flavour that is used in making pasta and baked rice.
- The consistency makes it ideal for making sauces and fondues.
The most popular Parmesan and a few other cheese types like Grana Padano and Pecorino fall under this category. These cheese types taste better when aged for at least a year. These cheeses are used as toppings in a variety of Italian dishes including the Carbonara, a type of pasta.
- Hard cheeses are those that taste better with age, giving out a characteristic flavour and odour.
- Parmesan cheeses are usually dry and just used as a topping.
Cheeses can also be classified based on age. Fresh cheeses can easily be made on your kitchen table. This is very much similar to Paneer, the Indian Cottage cheese. Fresh cheeses have a very subtle aroma and can be consumed fresh. Fresh cheeses could be used to add a tinge of saltiness and creamy texture to the regular looking salads. Aged cheeses usually have a very sharp and strong flavour and odour. A few varieties of cheese like Roquefort and Danish Blue have a very distinct colour.
Cheese can be ideally called a universally favorite ingredient. Be it sliced, melted, or grated, adding it to any dish enhances the flavour.
Cheese is used in the preparation of Indian dishes, too. Check out our range of cheese varieties from Milky Mist. From block mozzarella, gouda cheese to small cubes and even slice cheeses, you can get them all from Milky Mist. Some extra cheese is always a good idea!