You can find some of the best of Italy right here.
No country in the world produces more variety of cheese than Italy. A quick search of Wikipedia shows over 2,500 varieties of formaggio. We wondered how many Italian cheeses we could find at our local grocery stores (Whole Foods Market and Kroger). We found quite a few and selected a few for “research” purposes.
Italian Cheeses we found locally…
Mozzarella – Ubiquitous as the cheese of pizzas. Many varieties exist yet the Mozzarella di bufala is the traditional cheese featuring milk from Italian Mediterranean buffalo as well as goat and sheep’s milk. Cow’s milk is used mostly for the cheese for pastas, soups and pizzas and has a lower moisture content than buffalo’s milk. It’s classified as a semi-soft cheese first seen in the Campania region.
Gorgonzola – From the Piedmont/Lombardy regions. Several cities claim to have created Gorgonzola but there is a Gorgonzola, Italy northeast of Milan. In order to get the blue marbling effect, they pierce the cheese with steel needles. Mix one part Gorgonzola with one part butter and spread over a perfectly cooked steak to raise the bar of the meal.
Asiago – Asiago is another Veneto cheese that works well with pastas and risottos. Fresh Asiago is more soft and more mild of a flavor compared to an aged Asiago. A slice of this cheese yields a sweet, nutty flavor.
Fontina – From the Val d’Aosta region in the northwestern Italy, this cow’s milk cheese is a great cheese staple with many uses. It has a creamy, nutty flavor perfect for grilled cheese sandwiches, mac and cheese or to top your next burger.
Ubriaco Pinot Rose – Take a cow’s milk cheese from Veneto and soak it in a sparkling Pinot Grigio Rosé for two months along with rose petals and you create this incredible cheese. The rose petals are pressed into the rind for a more impressive presentation. You can taste the sweet fruitiness of the wine.
Parmigiano-Reggiano – More commonly known as Parmesan. First known in the Emilia Romagna region. The hard cheese comes from unpasteurized cow’s milk that ages between one and three years. You find the sharp and strong flavored cheese mostly over pasta dishes, pizzas and soups.
Sottocenere al Tarfufo – What’s unique about this semi-soft cheese from Venice is the inclusion of black truffles inside and that it is covered with a layer of ash as it ages. Spices including coriander, cinnamon, cloves, liquorice and fennel on the rind help to enhance and preserve the flavor.
A few more we found interesting that you may or may not find near you…
Scamoza – Uniquely shaped like a pear, this cheese from the south of Italy in Apulia. It’s similar to Mozzarella and the smoked version is very popular.
Zufi – Zufi is a special version of ricotta cheese from the Lombardy region. Italians use it as a spread since it is creamy and white. You can find ricotta cheese just about anywhere.
Pecorino – The island of Sardinia take great pride in their production of this hard cheese. Many use it as a less expensive alternative to Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Casu marzu – Residents of Sardinia take Pecorino cheese and introduce the larvae of the cheese fly into the cheese. The larvae eat through the cheese causing more fermentation. Once the cheese is very soft, then people can eat with the live larvae. You will not find it in stores around here though. Italian officials outlawed Casu Marzu although you might be able to find it on the black market.
Related Topic: Substitute a variety of Italian cheeses in this recipe for pimento cheese.