As the holidays approach we move, once again, into the season of festive feasting and everyone knows that no feast is complete without a cheese board. We’ve made it our mission to help you put together a platter of cheeses that will truly wow this year, compiling a thorough guide to our favourite Italian varieties of cheese, and helping you to stand out from the crowd because, lets face it, we’ve all eaten more than enough Brie and Stilton over the years.
Usually a cheese board will consist of a number of hard cheeses alongside a few semi-hard varieties and we like to throw one or two soft cheeses into the mix as well, to keep our board nice and dynamic (and because we just can’t resist a beautiful Burrata)! In the following lists, we will include a selection of Italian cheeses that we love, but don’t worry about using them all. You don’t want to overcrowd your cheese board - let each cheese have space to shine - so just choose a couple from each category and you’ll be set! We think that 4 or 5 different cheeses are enough to make a board really impress, without confronting your guests with too much choice.
Italian Hard Cheeses
The hard cheese category is home to some of Italy’s most iconic and historic cheeses and these varieties are often best when they’ve been allowed to mature over a long period of time. As a general rule of thumb, the longer a cheese has matured, the bolder the flavour. To learn a little more about some of the most famous hard Italian cheeses, do have a look at our blog on these.
- Parmigiano Reggiano - this cheese was first made by monks in the Middle Ages and originates from Emilia-Romagna
- Pecorino Romano - this variety has quite a salty flavour and hails from the south of the country where it is made from sheep’s milk
- Asiago - this cheese is produced in northern regions like Veneto and Trentino and has quite a crumbly texture
Italian Semi-Hard Cheeses
This is where you can really have some fun with your board. There are so many semi-hard Italian cheeses to choose from, inviting you to explore an entire spectrum of delicious flavours from the smooth, creamy varieties to bolder, more piccante options.
- Provolone - often sharp in its flavour, though sweeter variants can be found, this cheese is native to Lombardia and Veneto
- Gorgonzola - this ancient blue-veined variety is named after the town it originates from and is both deliciously creamy and perfectly tangy
- Taleggio - first aged in caves across the Seriana Valley in the province of Bergamo, this cheese has a sweet and aromatic flavour
- Scamorza - generally produced in Apulia and Calabria this cow’s milk cheese can be found in both smoked and unsmoked form, though we love the stronger flavour of the smoked variety
- Fontina - made with milk from the Valdostana cows of the Aosta Valley this cheese is sweet and pungent with small bubbles throughout
Italian Soft Cheeses
Whilst not always permitted on cheese-boards, we believe the addition of one or two carefully selected Italian soft cheeses will enrich any platter worth its salt, particularly if served with other antipasti like sundried tomatoes or fresh olives.
- Buffalo Mozzarella - simple, but divine, this deliciously creamy variety is made with milk from the Italian Buffalo native to Campania and is best served in small balls
- Burrata - typical of Apulia, this is a very creamy, milky cheese contained in a slightly firmer shell (it may need to be served in its own dish as it can run when sliced open)
- Mascarpone - this lovely cheese has quite a rich flavour with a sharp acidity that counterbalances its underlying sweetness, small pieces will enrich your board
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