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What are the 10 best Italian cheeses?

One of the most manufactured, imported and consumed products in Italy is cheese! Today we have specially selected for you a list of the 10 best cheeses in Italy!

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What are the 10 best Italian cheeses?

Those who like cheese know that Italy is a paradise to taste some of the best in the world. Italians LOVE cheese and, no wonder, some of the best in the world come from Italy! And for those who are passionate about cheese, I warn: you will FREAK OUT in Italy! Italian cheeses are delicious and many of them are still made by hand. Let’s get to our post today? What are the 10 best Italian cheeses? Here at Your Travel to Italy with Ana Patriciayou make the trip of your dreams!!! ALSO: see our “Accommodation in Italy – Tips for your holidays!”

Introduction

Well, to start, let’s talk a little bit about the origin of cheese. In 2014, pieces of cheese were identified on the chest and neck of a mummy found in northwestern China (Taklamakan desert). The mummy dates back to 1615 B.C. The pieces of cheese were found preserved in an almost hermetic environment in the bodies of 10 mysterious Bronze Age mummies. The analysis of the findings revealed a lactic coagulation cheese, transformed without use of rennet, but thanks to the action of bacteria, in many ways it resembled kefir, derived from milk that would have been of Caucasian origin. In addition, the carried-out analysis revealed that the cheese in question had a low salt content and was used for local consumption. It was considered the oldest cheese in the world! Read also Discover Burrata, the traditional Italian cheese from Apulia!

The History of Cheese in Italy

In Italy, the history of cheese begins a little later, with the arrival of the Greeks to the territory. The testimonies say that the spread of cheese on the noble tables began between the end of the 13th and 15th century in culinary recipes. The cheese ended up becoming so popular with Italian nobles that it started to be served as a dish in the popes’ canteen and at the Medici and Estense family weddings that, to affirm their wealth, served large pieces of Parmesan cheese to visitors and other members of the nobility who visited them. From the 13th century onwards, cheeses of different qualities circulated on the roads of Italy and, through the Alpine gorges, frequently reached markets distant from the areas of origin.

In those centuries, in Italy, the most popular cheeses were basically two. Marzolino, of Tuscan origin, so called because it is produced in March (Marzo, in Italian), and Parmesan, from the Cisalpine regions, called maggengo, because the product it was done in May (Maggio, in Italian). From the 12th century, in the abbeys of Moggio Udinese, Chiaravalle, San Lorenzo di Capua, Montasio, Grana and Mozzarella di Bufala were born. Years later, more and more cheeses began to be made and, over the centuries, it has become one of the most precious legacies of Italian cuisine. Cheese production in Italy is extensive (and intense!) and, below, you can see a map with the most characteristic cheeses from each region. Of course, if we were to quote everyone, the text would become a book (laughs).


Map of the most characteristic cheeses in each region 

What Are The 10 Best Italian Cheeses?
Source: Giuseppe L’Abbate

Cheese Denominations in Italy

Cheeses in Italy are divided into two denominations: DOP and IGP.

DOP – Denominazione di Origine Protteta (“Protected Designation of Origin”)

It is the seal that accompanies great and traditional Italian cheeses. This denomination is very precious and means that the cheese in question has the name of the region, or the place, of origin and that its characteristics are EXCLUSIVE of that specific geographical area.

All cheeses considered to be DOP must follow traditional and pre-defined rules (such as a manual), in addition to following a series of disciplinary specifications, which is filed with the European Commission. The specification defines in detail all aspects of the product: from its production techniques to the rules of labeling and marketing. To be registered as a DOP, cheeses must follow a complex recognition procedure and only those who pass the evaluation and approval will be able to use the ‘brand’ DOP, in addition to the European logo, which is characterized by a yellow sun on a red field, the account with 47 DOP labels, two of which are ricotta.

IGP – Indicazione Geografica Protetta (“Protected Geographical Indication”)

The IGP only requires that at least one phase of the production process must take place in a specific geographical area, but that does not make the quality requirements less: those who produce PGI must comply with the strict production rules set out in the regulations and compliance with these rules is guaranteed by a specific control body. Italy has only one IGP cheese label (Burrata di Andria). In other words: the difference between the denominations is in the freedom of production that the IGP presents, while that of the DOP is more restricted and specific, but that does not restrict the origin of the raw material.

Italian Cheese Textures

There are three basic types of textures in Italian cheeses:

  • Formaggi a pasta molle: it is a soft cheese.
  • Formaggi a pasta semidura: it has a texture a little firmer than the cheese of “molle pasta”, but less firm than that of “hard pasta”.
  • Formaggi a pasta dura: it is a very hard cheese, which is usually not cut, you just take chips with a kind of knife suitable for this purpose.

After our introduction for you to understand a little more about Italian cheeses, let’s now know which are the 10 most famous cheeses in Italy!

1) What are the 10 best Italian cheeses? FONTINA DOP

Fontina DOP: made in the Valle D’Aosta, it is produced with the milk of three special breeds of cows from the Valley that, today, as in the past, live on pastures in the mountains. It is characterized by being a soft and tasty cheese, produced in medium weight forms of 10 kg, which rest in the maturing cavities for at least 80 days.

2) What are the 10 best Italian cheeses? CACIOCAVALLO

Caciocavallo d’Abruzzo DOP: Caciocavallo d’Abruzzo is an EXCELLENT example of Italian cheese! It is produced with cow’s milk, especially from the provinces of Chieti and L’Aquila and in the territories of the Maiella National Park. It is a very fat and fibrous cheese and its ideal consumption is after three months of its production, but it can also be aged for up to two years. The characteristic name, according to the legend, derives from the custom of tying the cheeses in ‘pairs’ and placing them to mature in a kind of ‘hanger’. It can be smoked too and all of its ‘versions’ are delicious.

3) What are the 10 best Italian cheeses? MOZZARELA DI BUFALA DOP

Mozzarela di Bufala DOP: Campania is home to the famous Mozzarela di Bufala. This is a fresh, spun cheese and has a 500-year tradition. It is produced exclusively with buffalo milk raised in the DOP area in the Campania region. Recently, Mozzarella di Bufala was declared a World Heritage Site.

4) What are the 10 best Italian cheeses? MONTASIO DOP

Montasio DOP: homonymous to the Friuli Venezia Giulia plateau area, it is made only with milk from the night or from the morning milking. It is a very fresh cheese (when it has a white and very soft dough), but it can be aged or ‘middle aged’ (mezzanine). The older it is, the more the color of both the dough and the shell is amber.

5) What are the 10 best Italian cheeses? MONTE VERONESE DOP

Monte Veronese DOP: this cheese is produced with the best milk from the Lessinia Mountains, in the Veneto region (located between Verona and Vicenza), and it is a cheese that can be offered in two ways. When made with whole milk from Monte Veronese, it presents a very fresh feature and makes it have a soft touch and a slight butter flavor. When it is produced in Monte Veronese D’Allevo, it is made with skimmed milk, following a longer aging process that offers a firmer consistency, with a more intense color and, of course, with a much stronger flavor, but always very nice.

6) What are the 10 best Italian cheeses? GORGONZOLA DOP

Gorgonzola DOP: who doesn’t know Gorgonzola? It is soft and creamy, can taste sweeter or spicier and is delicious! (There are controversies, I know! Either you love it or you hate it! Hahaha). Originally from Gorgonzola, in Lombardy, it is a unique product in the world! Less well known, however, is Bagoss, the aged cheese produced in Bagolino, a town on Lake Idro, in the region of Brescia. Production is limited, but worth a try. Grilled, it gains a new flavor and deserves prominence for its golden color, which is unmistakable due to the saffron in the dough.

7) What are the 10 best Italian cheeses? PARMIGIANO REGGIANO DOP

Parmigiano Reggiano DOP: when we talk about cheese, it is IMPOSSIBLE not to mention the one known as the ‘king of cheese’: the Parmigiano Reggiano. Made in Emilia Romagna, in the city of Parma, Parmigiano is one of the most well-known Italian products in the world. Its ‘grated’ version is imitated all over the world! It is a hard cheese that ages in unmistakable forms, and each form weighs about 40 kg. It can be aged for 12, 24, 36 or 48 months, changing the taste and consistency as it ages.

8) What are the 10 best Italian cheeses? GRANA PADANO DOP

Grana Padano DOP: another famous cheese in the whole world, it is often confused with Parmigiano Reggiano. The main difference is the production zone, Grana is produced in 32 provinces in five different regions: Piedmont, Lombardia, Veneto, Emilia Romagna, Trentino Alto Adige; another difference is the maturation time: the Grana Padano is aged for a maximum of 20 months, while the Parmigiano can be aged for up to 48! Anyway, it is a hard cheese, ‘golden’ and delicious!

9) What are the 10 best Italian cheeses? PECORINO ROMANO DOP

Pecorino Romano DOP: in the Lazio region, we find the unmistakable Roman ricotta, the famous Pecorino Romano. The dough is dense and granular if we compare it with the fresh ricotta we know; it is also used to make sweets, as it has a delicate flavor that ‘accepts’ both salt and sugar. Pecorino Romano is as old as the Italian capital and is produced with the milk of sheep raised in the production area protected by the DOP consortium. It is a hard and very tasty cheese.

10) What are the 10 best Italian cheeses? FIORE SARDO DOP

Fiore Sardo DOP: Sardinia offers an excellent ricotta of sheep’s milk that is often served with honey: a mouth-watering delicacy called Fiore Sardo. It is a type of pecorino of ancient tradition, seasoned and tasty, which served as a basis to feed the shepherds. It is one of the most traditional cheeses in Italy. It owes its name to the ancient chestnut wood molds that, having carved a flower similar to asphodel in the background, gave cheese the shape of a flower; they also received initials from their producers.

Note

  • This is not a technical text.

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Conclusion

What are the 10 best Italian cheeses? For cheese lovers, Italy is the ideal destination! Italians like and produce excellent cheeses, being one of the most famous countries in the world when we talk about this delicious delicacy! Enjoy! And if you feel insecure or have no time, and need help to organize your trip, do not hesitate to look for me! I will love to help you make your dream trip to Italy. And how can I do that? Continue reading this post until the end and you will understand how can we make your life and journey easier.

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