Hard Italian Cheeses – Marcella The Cheesemonger International Guilde des Fromagers
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Hard Italian Cheeses


 

There are several hard cheeses from Italy that work very well for cooking; although most can stand alone as well. I thought I would review my favorite three as a group.

Ricotta Salata

Ricotta Salata

Ricotta Salata

 

This is a new cheese to me. This is not a ricotta like most American humankinds think of ricotta. It is pure white and comes in a brick. It is quite salty in a pleasant way.

Ricotta means “recooked” and Salata means “salted”. Tah dah – perfect name.

The Lady crumbled some of this on my Friskees “Classic Pate” Mixed Grill and I thought I had died and returned to the Mother Ship. It set the pate off perfectly and was sublime.

The Lady crumbled it and sprinkled it on a field greens (think grass) salad. The Lady loved it; The Man grumbled something about preferring Blue Cheese on his weeds…

I give Ricotta Salata 4 Paws 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got).

Serving Suggestions: Crumbled on salad; sliced on crackers or with fresh fruit. Also excellent for cooking.

Wine and Beer Pairings:

Wine: Sangiovese, Pinot Gris

Beer:

Fat Content: 5%

Source: Sheep’s milk

Grana Padano

Grana Padano

Grana Padano

I have long enjoyed this cheese. It is The Lady’s “everyday parmesan”. It is also the #1 Parmesan in Italy. The reason is economic. Grana Padano is less expensive that the Grand-daddy of Parms; but is almost as good. For cooking, Grana Padano is hard to beat.

It is a hard cheese aged slowly for up to 18 months. It has the DOC/PDO designation – sort of like a copyright for European cheeses.

It has a delicate, nutty flavor and is grainy. The Italians prefer to use a cheese knife to splinter this cheese; however, most Americans like their cheeses sliced. The rind, which is thin, can be used in cooking to flavor pasta sauces such as Marinara. The Lady uses her rinds for this purpose. Like the ricotta salata above and the Parmagiano-Reggiano below, The Lady sprinkles it on my various pates. Based on its nutty flavor, I would like to try it with a nice jerked piece ofSalamandra salamandra, which I enjoyed in a previous life while living in the Lombardy Quadrant of Europe.

Interesting bit of trivia about Grana Padano: According to athletes, Grana Padano is the quickest way to restore your energy levels when competing, training or after strenuous exercising. Because it is ripened over a longer period of time, the body quickly turns it into energy that can be used immediately.

I give Grana Padano 4 Paws out of 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got).

Serving Suggestions for Grana Padano: It makes a fine table cheese to be enjoyed with nuts and grapes. It is often grated over pasta and other dishes and used in cooking. It is excellent as the cheese base for an Alfredo Sauce. Used with cheddar, it takes mac and cheese to a new level.

Wine and Beer Pairings for Grana Padano:

Wine: Italian brut, Vino Lugano, Barolo, Barbera, Brunello, Marsala Soleras, Nebbiolo

Beer: India Pale Ale

Awards: Protected with the DOC/PDO designation by the EU.

Fat Content: Around 30% making it a low-fat cheese.

Source: Cow’s milk

Parmigiano Reggiano

Parmigiano Reggiano

Parmigiano Reggiano

The Grand-daddy of Italian Parms. This is Grana Padano on steroids. The Lady likes to shave this onto the field green salads she forces upon The Man. According to The Man, he would prefer it if The Lady held the weeds and gave him the Parmigiano Reggiano straight.

I could eat this cheese all day long with or without a nice rana catesbeiana stew.

It is nutty, spicy and salty but all in perfect amounts. It has a caramel finish. It is best when aged about 2 years.

Interesting bit of trivia about Parmigiano Reggiano: The leftover whey from production of this cheese is fed to the pigs that later become the legs of Proscuitto di Parma. The Italians have really got it going on, don’t they?

I give Parmigiano Reggiano 4 Paws of 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got). In this case, I sure wish I had more…

Serving Suggestions for Parmigiano Reggiano: It makes a fine table cheese to be enjoyed with nuts and grapes. It is often grated over pasta and other dishes and used in cooking. It is excellent as the cheese base for an Alfredo Sauce. Be sure and save the rind to use in your Italian cooking as suggested with the Grana Padano above. The rind can be frozen and is good for up to a year in your freezer. The Lady’s kiosk sells the rind, which she calls “Soup” bones for half the price of the cheeses. Great value and can be used to pump up the flavor of soups, sauces and stews.

Wine and Beer Pairings for Parmigiano Reggiano:

Wine:Chardonnay, Sangiovese, Lambrusco, Barbera, Montepulciano

Beer: India Pale Ale, Amber Ale

Awards: Protected with the DOC/PDO designation by the EU.

Fat Content: Around 20% making it a low-fat cheese.

Source: Cow’s Milk

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