Italian semi-soft and semi-hard cheeses have a stronger flavor and firmer texture than the soft cheeses but are not as dry and crumbly as hard cheeses.
Semi-soft cheeses have more moisture than harder cheeses, but a longer shelf life than the soft cheeses. They are good for snacking and desserts and some can be used in cooking.
Semi-hard cheeses are pressed to remove moisture and when fresh are generally not hard and crumbly but they do become firmer, more pungent, and crumbly as they age. They are often paired with fruit and wine or served on cheese trays with crackers. They can be cooked without becoming rubbery or oily and have a longer shelf life than softer cheeses.
Asiago Fresco or Asiago Pressato is a semi-soft cheese that originated in the village of Asiago. It is much softer than the hard Asiago Vecchio because it is generally aged for only 30-40 days. It is sweet and buttery with a slightly salty aftertaste that pairs well with salami and crusty bread.
Provolone is mozzarella that has been aged and often smoked, making it dryer than fresh mozzarella. It can be aged for as few as one or two months or up to one year. It has a firm and slightly elastic texture and is excellent on sandwiches.
Bel Paese is a mild creamy cheese made from cow’s milk that has a buttery flavor. The name means “beautiful country,” referring to the beautiful countryside of Lombardy (near Milan) where it originated. It is popular paired with fruity wines or as a snack or dessert. It melts easily and can be used as a substitute for mozzarella in pizzas, casseroles, and other dishes.
One of the oldest cheeses in Italy is Fontina Val d’Aosta, which has been made in the Aosta Valley in the high Alps of northwestern Italy since the 1100s. It is also one of the most famous Italian cheeses and many cheese connoisseurs rank it among the top cheeses in the world. It has a fleshy color and a buttery, nutty taste. It melts well and is often used as a dessert cheese and in fondue.
Fontina Fontal is a semi-soft cheese that is milder than Fontina Val d’Aosta. It is made with pasteurized cow’s milk and has a nutty sweet flavor. When melted it forms a dense layer of gooeyness, making it a great substitute for mozzarella or provolone in cooked recipes.