Autumn is the season of sampling. What is better than a culinary journey through Italy?
Here is a list of 5 Italian PDO cheeses you should definitely taste: traditional, typical and unmissable flavours that take us to different regions of Italy, and reveal the exceptional culinary culture of this country.
Fontina Valdostana PDO
One of the cheeses to taste and present in this list is the Fontina. It is the main cheese of the Aosta Valley, and since 1996 it has obtained the Protected Designation of Origin of the European Union.
It is a fatty cheese, made with very fresh cow's milk and sweet taste.
Typical dishes with Fontina:
- Polenta concia, a seasoned corn polenta ideal for cold weather. You'll find it in a bowl with alternate layers of polenta and fontina. Then at the end, as it cools, melted butter is added. Straight into the oven and ready to eat.
- Seupetta di Cogne, a simple traditional dish. A soup with slices of hard bread fried in butter, combined with fontina and rice cooked in meat broth. All flavored with melted butter and a pinch of nutmeg - a real treat!
- Gratin di pane e Fontina, gratin of bread and Fontina, an ideal dish to use the old bread and not throw food away. Let's talk about a dish with a bread and baked cheese base, mixed with a mixture of milk and eggs. Simple but tasty!
We move to Friuli Venezia Giulia to taste another Italian cheese with protected designation of origin: Montasio. This cheese takes its name from the homonymous plateau where this cheese has been produced since 1200.
It is a hard cheese with a more or less aromatic taste depending on the months of maturation: it differs in fresh, intermediate (mezzano) and cured (stagionato).
Typical dishes with Montasio:
- Lasagne al radicchio e Montasio, a delicious variant of the classic ragú lasagna. This baked pasta consists of layers of red radicchio cooked and shaded on the red side, and Montasio cheese typical of Friuli.
- Polpettine di carciofi dal cuore mórbido, soft heart artichoke meatballs, a finger food based on a mixture prepared with boiled artichokes, breadcrumbs, eggs, grated parmesan cheese, garlic and parsley. Inside each meatball is a soft and tasty heart of Montasio.
- Blecs alla friulana con burro e Montasio, maltagliati pasta boiled and sautéed in a frying pan with corn flour fried in butter. The final touch is sprinkled with extra-mature Montasio cheese.
Casciotta d'Urbino PDO
We arrived in the centre of Italy, more precisely in Marche, where we sample a sweet-tasting Italian PDO cheese, a thin rind and a soft paste: the Casciotta d'Urbino.
This cheese, made mainly from sheep's milk mixed with a smaller percentage of cow's milk, was highly appreciated by Michelangelo and Pope Clement XIV and must be sampled.
Typical dishes with Casciotta d'Urbino:
- Rotolo salato con zucchini e Casciotta, salted bread roll with courgette and casciotta, a revised version of the classic salty cake. A brisè pasta filled with mortadella, courgette and cheese is ideal for hiking.
- Spaghetti con fiori di zucca e fonduta di Casciotta, spaghetti with pumpkin flowers and Casciotta fondue, a first course with zucchini flowers combined with Casciotta d'Urbino fondue... Delicate and strong at the same time!
- Semifreddo alla Casciotta con purea di fragole, casciotta semifreddo with strawberry puree. Beat the egg yolks and sugar, add the flour and starch. Add the boiling milk and make a fondue with milk, butter, flour and Casciotta d'Urbino. Once melted, add to the mixture and decorate with a strawberry puree.
Canestrato Pugliese PDO
This sheep's milk cheese is produced mainly in the province of Bari and takes its name from the baskets in which it is aged. It has a delicate taste when the cheese is fresh and becomes spicy as it matures.
Typical dishes with Canestrato Pugliese:
- Pasta al forno con Canestrato e mozzarella di bufala, baked pasta with Canestrato and buffalo mozzarella, for all baked pasta and cheese lovers. A first course with a layer of sauce, a layer of pasta, a layer of mozzarella, a layer of sauce with meatballs and finally the Canestrato Pugliese grated. To lick your lips!
- Flan di cipolla su fonduta di Canestrato e vincotto di Primitivo, onion fondue on Canestrato fondue and vincotto Primitivo, a delicious dish reminiscent of the most famous onion calzone a la barese (here accompanied by a cream of Canestrato and a few drops of Apulian vincotto Primitivo). A modern and refined reinterpretation of a simple, peasant dish, much appreciated by young and old alike.
- Bombette pugliesi, Apulian bombette, typical rolled pork, stuffed with Canestrato pugliese, bacon or other meats and flavored with chopped parsley, salt and pepper. They usually have a rounded shape, hence the name "bombette".
Vastedda della Valle del Belice PDO
Once in Sicily, in the municipalities of Agrigento, Trapani and Palermo, we sample another Italian PDO cheese: Vastedda della Valle del Belice. Made with sheep's milk from the Valle del Belice breed, it is a raw sheep's cheese with a spun cheese and a fresh taste, with acidic notes.
Platos típicos con Vastedda della Valle del Belice:
- Focaccia con Vastedda e pomodori secchi, focaccia with Vastedda and dried tomatoes, a really delicious sandwich. A crunchy focaccia full of dried tomatoes and Vastedda - for real connoisseurs and gourmets!
- Risotto mantecato con Vastedda, risotto con Vastedda, a risotto for cheese and strong flavours lovers. An explosive blend given by the aroma of Vastedda del Belice, combined with oil flavored with capers, chili and wild fennel.