Exploring Italian Cheese Classics
October is Italian-American Heritage and Culture Month. And one thing the Italians have shared with the world is their cuisine. Italian cuisine is celebrated worldwide for its rich history, exquisite flavors, and diverse ingredients. At the heart of many Italian dishes are its cheeses, each with its unique heritage and distinctive taste. In this journey through Italian cheese culture, we'll explore four timeless classics: Parmesan, Asiago, Provolone, and Mozzarella. Let's delve into the history and flavors that make these cheeses a staple in Italian and international kitchens alike.

Parmesan: The King of Italian Cheeses
History: Parmesan cheese, also known as Parmigiano-Reggiano, hails from the Emilia-Romagna and Lombardy regions of Italy. Its history dates back over nine centuries, and it's often considered the king of Italian cheeses. Parmesan is made from cow's milk and aged for a minimum of 12 months, with some wheels aging for up to 36 months. This aging process gives Parmesan its crumbly texture and rich, nutty flavor.

Flavor: Parmesan's flavor profile is a harmonious blend of salty and savory notes, with hints of fruitiness. Grated Parmesan elevates pasta dishes, risottos, and salads to culinary perfection. Its umami-rich taste adds depth to soups and sauces, making it an essential ingredient in Italian and international kitchens.

Asiago: A Taste of the Italian Alps
History: Asiago cheese originates from the Asiago Plateau in the Veneto region of northern Italy. It comes in two varieties: fresh Asiago (Asiago Pressato) and aged Asiago (Asiago d'Allevo). Fresh Asiago has a mild, creamy flavor and is aged for about 20 to 40 days. Aged Asiago, on the other hand, is aged for up to two years, developing a sharper and more robust taste.

Flavor: Fresh Asiago boasts a smooth, delicate flavor with a slightly tangy undertone. In contrast, aged Asiago offers a nuttier, earthier taste with a hint of sharpness. Both varieties of Asiago are versatile and can be enjoyed on a cheese platter, grated over pasta, or as a savory snack.

Provolone: Italy's Cheese with Character
History: Provolone cheese comes from Southern Italy, primarily the regions of Campania and Basilicata. This semi-hard cheese is made from cow's milk and is renowned for its distinctive taste. Provolone cheese is aged for various durations, resulting in two main varieties: Provolone Dolce (mild and creamy) and Provolone Piccante (sharp and piquant).

Flavor: Provolone Dolce offers a gentle, creamy flavor with a hint of sweetness. In contrast, Provolone Piccante delivers a bold, tangy taste with a sharp finish. Both varieties are perfect for sandwiches, melting on pizzas, or adding character to salads and antipasti platters.

Mozzarella: The Beloved Melter
History: Mozzarella, one of Italy's most beloved cheeses, traces its origins to the Campania and Lazio regions. Traditionally made from buffalo milk (Mozzarella di Bufala) or cow's milk (Fior di Latte), this cheese is known for its exceptional melting properties.

Flavor: Mozzarella is prized for its mild, milky flavor and delicate, stringy texture when melted. It's the star of Margherita pizzas, caprese salads, and lasagnas. Fresh Mozzarella di Bufala has a slightly tangy edge, while Fior di Latte offers a milder taste. Both varieties bring a touch of Italy to your favorite dishes.

As you explore the rich history and flavors of Parmesan, Asiago, Provolone, and Mozzarella, you'll discover why Italian cheeses hold a special place in culinary traditions worldwide. Try these special Italian cheeses from Simply Cheese, purveyor of fresh Amish cheese. Buon appetito!