Italian cuisine is regional—each region showcasing special breads, pastries, pastas, vegetables, fruits, cheeses, wines and more—products that are unique to a geographical area and its traditions. While we may not be able to travel abroad right now, these Italian cheeses will magically transport your taste buds to the different regions of Italy.
Each of these tasty selections of cheese can be shipped nationwide.*
PDO Parmigiano Reggiano
Parmigiano Reggiano is often called the king of Italian cheeses because of its versatility and popularity across the world. The pride of the Emilia Romagna region, this cheese typically comes from the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia and Modena; a few towns in the area of Bologna, and from towns in the Mantova province in Lombardy. This slow-ripened, hard cheese (which contains cow’s milk) is considered one of the main ingredients of Italian cuisine. It can be eaten on its own, grated over pasta, sprinkled over a salad or paired with preserves, honey and or balsamic vinegar.
“The cheese that’s readily available in most grocery stores tends to be younger in age and therefore milder in flavor, or much milkier in taste and texture,” says Jon Marsh, co-owner of St. Kilian’s Cheese Shop & Market in Denver. “We find that 24 months is the sweet spot for what aged Parma really should be—flavorful and perfect for grating, melting and cooking. It’s always great to have a hunk at home in the fridge, and those rinds are essential for saving and cooking when added into broth, soups or sauces for instant umami.” Prices start at $6 for 4 ounces.
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PDO Valserena Parmigiano Reggiano (Solo di Bruna) 24 month
Purchase several different varieties of Parmigiano Reggiano and you can enjoy a “tasting” of different ages and taste profiles. A unique type is produced by the oldest Parmigiano Reggiano dairy in Parma (also in Emilia Romagna), one of only four members of the Consorzio di Sola Bruna (Brown Cow Consortium). Valserena grows the feed, raises the animals, and makes the cheese. “It is similar to the Vacche Rosse cheese from red cows, but a bit sweeter with flavors of candied nuts, hay and fruity notes,” says Vincent S. Di Piazza, owner of Ditalia Italian imports. “We love it this time of year paired with a drop of balsamic, panforte, honey and fruity jams; perfect for a charcuterie board that will wow your foodie friends with a new Parmigiano tasting experience.” Priced at $25 for 10 ounces.
Hailing from the Veneto region, Grana Padano bears strong resemblance to Parmigiano Reggiano. Produced throughout the Po River Valley in northeastern Italy, the cheese is made from the raw cows’ milk of two milkings, which is then partially skimmed. The cheese is cooked twice and bathed in brine before it is left to age. The resulting rind is firm, waxen and deeply straw-colored, protecting a fragrant, dry, flaking paste with sweet, nutty flavor that is never tangy. Grana means ”grain” and, as the name implies, the cheese has a fine granular quality with a sweet, nutty little bite. Available from Murray’s Cheese, this Grana Padano is aged for at least 20 months, and it’s a great grate with a hard, sweet, and nutty flavor profile. Priced at $21 a pound.
PDO Formaggio di Fossa di Sogliano
Although available in some other Italian towns, this robust cheese is often produced in Forli-Cesena and Rimini, both in Emilia Romagna. The name of the cheese is derived from the “fossa” or pits dug out of sandstone where it has been aged since Medieval times. Still using the same centuries-old techniques, the pits are disinfected, a fire turned on, the walls of the pit covered with fresh straw, and the cheese seasoned and aged inside bags. Made from sheep’s milk, cow’s milk or a combination of the two, the cheese acquires a unique woodsy, earthy taste that pairs well with honey or fresh or dried fruit, and Sangiovese wine. Currently available at supermarketital.com, the cheese is often hard to find in the U.S. but worth the effort. Priced at $77.99 for 2.5 pounds.
Lou Bergier Pichin
This semi-soft cheese is made by a very small producer that the St. Killian Cheese Shop owners met at Salone del Gusto, a biennial international food trade show held in Italy. The cheese reflects Piedmont’s Alpine style with a French influence. “It’s coagulated with cardoon, a thistle plant, instead of animal rennet that, unlike other Italian cheeses, is unique to this one,” says Marsh. “The thistle rennet helps make this cheese close to lactose-free so in many ways, it’s considered a vegetarian variety of cheese.” Offering a bit of tang with floral notes, its taste pairs well with fresh fruit (especially cherries) or sweet jam and light bodied-wines from Alto Piedmont, such as Dolcetto, or even your favorite Pinot Noir. Prices start at $7 for 4 ounces.
Moliterno al Tartufo
Serving a truffled cheese can turn any ordinary day into a celebration. This classic-aged pecorino cheese has ribbons of black truffle laced throughout. “This cheese is the real thing,” says St. Kilian’s Marsh. “It offers the savory-ness of age in its character. Unlike cheeses from other countries that label themselves truffled but rely on the aroma of truffle oil, this cheese really holds up to the truffles without being overpowered by the perfume.” The milk comes from Sardinia, and the producer is Central Formaggi whose sole focus is to perfect this cheese exclusively. This makes a great cheese board addition—just add some sweet honey over it to play with the saltiness. It’s also a great cooking cheese to grate over buttered pasta, or, try it over freshly popped buttered popcorn. Pair with bold Italian red wines. Prices start at $10 for 4 ounces.
Ubracio di Raboso (Drunken Cheese)
La Casearia is a creamery and aging facility in the Veneto region that dates back to the early 1900s. Its Ubriaco di Raboso, a semi-hard cow’s milk cheese soaked in the region’s Raboso wine, is nicknamed “drunken” for obvious reasons. The cheese is pale yellow in color with small holes throughout, encased in a deep violet-colored rind. “The cheese is aged for around 18 months, the last six months of which is spent soaking in the barrels of a local wine,” says Di Piazza of Ditalia. “Upon maturity, it develops a soft and supple texture, which ages to become firmer and crumbly, similar to a Parmigiano. It has a flowery aroma and smells of Prosecco wine. It can be served in crumbles or shavings with a glass of Prosecco or any aged, red wine.” Priced at $12 for an 8 ounce wedge.
Italy’s famous, blue-veined Gorgonzola is made in two different styles; Dolce is sweet and creamy while this Mountain variety offers some bite, buried in dense, milky paste. Cheesemakers from the region of Lombardy employ a two-step process in which pasteurized curds from morning and evening milkings are layered into each wheel. It tastes spicy, earthy, and gooey with the veining adding a bite. Great for baking, sauces and topped on salads. Priced at $21 a pound (sold by the ½ lb).
This cheese from Calabria earns its name, literally meaning “cheese on horseback,” from the way duos of gourd-shaped rounds are rope-bound and slung over a wooden board to drain and age. This 360-degree exposure to age and ambient microbes develops sharp, spicy flavors, a development continued in caves, where the cheeses hang among other aging wheels, picking up deep, earthy undertones and fruity aromas. Flavor Profile: complex, layered, earthy. Some find the taste similar to an aged Provolone. Priced at $20 a pound, sold by the ½ lb.
Eataly Formaggi from North to South
Why settle for one or two tastes when Eataly, an international purveyor of high-quality Italian foods can curate a cheese tasting that takes your taste buds from north to south with stops along the way? This Italian cheese assortment includes: Perenzin Caciotta di Capra Foglie di Noce, Central Formaggi Canestrato with Truffles, Fulvi Pecorino Pepato Spizzico, Guffanti Pecorino Siciliano DOP, Ghidetti Provolone Gigante Spicy, Agriform Parmigiano Reggiano DOP 18 Month, Perenzin San Pietro in Beeswax, Guffanti Gorgonzola Piccante Aged 300 Days, Perenzin Montasio Stravecchio DOP 20 Month, and Agriform Piave Mezzano DOP. To enjoy, all you will need to do is arrange them on your own cutting board. A perfect gift for any cheese lover! Priced at $135.
Goldbelly Italian Cheese Assortment
Goldbelly is a curated marketplace delivering gourmet foods and gifts from all around the U.S. One cheese lover favorite is the the five-piece Italian cheese assortment from the venerable Ideal Cheese Shop in NYC. The assortment includes chunks of Parmigiano Reggiano from Emilia Romagna (aged 30-36 months); Moliterno, an aged sheep’s milk type of pecorino from Sardinia; Gorgonzola Dolce; a sweet version of the classic (perfect for dessert drizzled with honey); delicate Fontina from Valle d’Aosta that’s more sweeter and more buttery than Swiss Gruyere; and Taleggio, a soft, creamy cheese typical of typical of the regions of Lombardy, Piedmont, Veneto, and Liguria. It comes with a box of La Panzanella crackers and is also available for gifting as a three-cheese assortment. Priced at $89
- All prices were accurate at the time of publication. Costs of products and shipping may vary depending on location and the time of purchase.