What is taleggio?
Taleggio, known by regional locals as talegg, is a delightful semi-soft cheese, offering an earthy flavour with subtle sweetness and a robust aroma. taleggio has been certified as one of the most famous Italian cheeses in the world for its rich taste imparted from its ten-month (minimum) process of maturation.
Made from cow’s milk, taleggio’s rind obtains its characteristic smell for two reasons: firstly, because five different types of specialised mould are used and periodically washed off. This is also what ultimately gives this cheese its distinctive outer orangey-rose hue. Secondly the cheese is submerged in brine for either 12–14 days or periodically drizzled with olive oil, giving it an intense aroma but unique flavour: rich but mellow and reminiscent of hazelnuts, almonds, black pepper, and eucalyptus. Taleggio also comes in softer varieties, called "dolce", which have a different rind.
Where is taleggio made?
Trace the tranquil and winding Taleggio River down its impressive valley (Val Taleggio), and you're sure to see a few of the area's natural wonders, including the birthplace of the eponymously named taleggio cheese. This fertile valley sits in Lombardy region of northern Italy and is, by definition, an agricultural region, familiar with the hard work of tending to grapes and cattle. Taleggio has been produced in this region, (in the province of Bergamo) since the 9th century, although some people do claim the existence of this cheese goes as far back as the Roman presence in these mountains.
As well as the ever-changing landscape - from mountain lakes and fields of yellow rapeseed to clusters of olive trees and endless woodland, this part of the region is home to a cultural tradition that takes cheesemaking to new heights!
Quite literally, taleggio was historically made up in the mountains by herdsman who needed a use for their surplus of milk before moving the cattle to graze elsewhere at the beginning and end of the summer months. They found that the cheese ripened well in the alpine caves surrounding the mountain towns of the Bergamo area and could then be used as currency at local markets. As better roads were built into these secluded areas, the demand for this deliciously soft-centred cheese increased and it began to be made in other lower areas of the valley, closer to the grazing animals. It is said, however, that the taleggio made in the mountain caves remains the richest of them all.
Our favourite taleggio pasta recipes
In these delicious ravioli we marry together the flavours of southern and northern Italy, rejoicing in the delicious matrimony of regions that are often at odds with each other. The mild, almost-fruity tang of the taleggio perfectly complements the heat of the ‘nduja.
Beautiful to look at and even better to eat, these heart-shaped ravioli are filled with mortadella and melting pieces of taleggio. It's a match made in heaven.
Taleggio wine pairing recommendation
Taleggio's aromatic, fruity notes call for a wine with enough heft to stand up to its strong flavours. Amarone della Valpolicella does just that, matching the cheese both in flavour and aroma - without overwhelming any of the more subtle notes in the cheese. Amarone has a complex palate with notes of cherry and spices, which will meld with the sharp fruitiness of taleggio, making it a natural pairing.