Italian cheeses are recognized world-wide for their quality and flavor. Each cheese has a unique flavor influenced by the type of milk, how the cheese is made, and how old the cheese is. Hard cheeses are strong and robust, while Italian soft cheeses have a more subtle taste and are particularly adaptable for a variety of uses because of their creaminess and relatively high moisture content.
Italian soft cheeses – such as ricotta, mozzarella, gorgonzola, and mascarpone – are best used fresh to retain their flavors and moisture. When ordered from gourmet distributers, measures are taken to ensure freshness upon arrival. Ordering via the internet makes it easier than ever to buy cheese from reputable cheese mongers and dairies and have it shipped directly to your home.
Italian soft cheeses rarely stand alone. They are excellent spread on crackers or bread and truly shine in recipes that draw on their unique characteristics.
Ricotta provides a smooth backdrop for bolder flavors and is often paired with balsamic vinegar in salads, pastas, and desserts. It tempers the bite of flavor and gives a creamy texture to the dish.
Ricotta and mozzarella enhance main dishes by marrying the aromas and taste of meat with other high quality ingredients (tomatoes, fresh pasta, and herbs). Dishes such as lasagna, manicotti, and ravioli capitalize on those flavors.
Gorgonzola is a veined blue cheese full of deep flavor. Often used in a crumbled form in salads, the bite of this cheese is well-known. However, when melted, it creates a rich flavor that pairs well with meat in dishes such as stuffed beef tenderloin and hamburgers.
Mascarpone cheese is often used in Italian desserts. It is perhaps best known as an ingredient in tiramisu with cocoa, coffee-soaked Ladyfingers, and liquor. Made from cow’s milk, it capitalizes on creaminess. When thinned and sweetened, it is an excellent accompaniment to fresh berries or fruit.
Regardless of their various uses, Italian soft cheeses are truly an integral part of cooking today. With textures and flavors that excite home cooks and chefs, these cheeses are found in new and classic recipes used all over the world.