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Italian Cheese Please??? Tell Me Your Favorite Italians....

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I would love to know what some of your favorites are. Types that I've tried have been pretty much limited to Pecorino Romano DOC, Locatelli Romano, Reggianno Parm and an aged Asiago. Would love some recs on other Pecorinos (there are so many to chose from), Gorgonzolas, softer type Italians, and anything else you liked. One that really caught my interest was a Parm Reggiano Vacche Rosse. Has anyone tried this particular type? Any recs on a good sharp Provolone? The only ones I've tried are tasteless US varieties. Thanks!

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  1. Here's some I like:
    http://www.artisanalcheese.com/Italy/...

    But frankly, I never understand these posts. I know nothing about you, nor you of me, so how can I know what you would like? Hard? Soft? Cow milk? sheep? Sheep and goat mixed. Washed rind? See what I'm saying?

    They're all pretty darn delicious in their own right.

    1 Reply
    1. re: thegforceny

      I love bold, strong flavors. (Maybe not as available in an Italian cheese) As far as type...cow, sheep, goat...it doesn't matter. There really has never been a cheese I didn't like. Love some more than other!!!

    2. I'm a huge taleggio fan.

      6 Replies
      1. re: thimes

        Taleggio also, when it's nice and rotten and stinky.

        1. re: Veggo

          The smell of taleggio knocks you in the nose like a boxer's fist, but the flavor is remarkably mild and tangy. Definitely one of my favorite cheeses, too.

          1. re: JungMann

            It is true that taleggio has an odor but it isn't nearly as "stinky" as some french cheeses (for anyone reading this and being freaked out by the smelly comments) I don't think - and tastes so yummy. Love the smoothness of its texture as well.

            1. re: thimes

              A few summers ago a friend brought home (on the train, people hated her) some limberger. She opened it up in a bar and the owner threw her out. We sat outside on the eating it on the hood of her boyfriends car. The smell was awful, but the taste was heavenly

            2. re: JungMann

              Please join us on the Taleggio, cheese of the month, discussion here,
              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/892781

            3. re: Veggo

              love taleggio and it is a great cheese to melt into a sandwich or anything!

          2. Provolone! When I was a kid, back in 50's, Dad would take one or more of us along to get hoagies at Dicostanza's in Chester PA. Now the neighborhood is a place where Marines wouldn't wanna go into. BUT then... it was an old-fashioned store. mama Costanza would ALWAYS slice of a snack for kids waiting... a slice of provolone was my first HOPE... followed by a slice of salami... though didn't care for the pepper corns. What ever happened to g=them anyway?

            2 Replies
            1. re: kseiverd

              Grandson moved three miles south to Marcus Hook and still does the same thing as his GM, place still called DiCostanza's

              1. re: kseiverd

                Of course, there's provolone and there's provolone. Typical grocer provolone is way too bland for me. Give me the hard (too hard to make thin slices - the type that crumbles when sliced), sharp, imported provolone... followed by a thinly sliced prosciutto perhaps with a thin slice of garden fresh tomato on a crusty Italian bread., Hmm - now that's heaven.

                If it's <$12/lb, it's probably not the right provolone.

              2. Try some caciocavallo.

                1. The Vacche Rosa is delicious, but not that distinguishable from regular DOG(C?) parm.. Some of my favorites: sottocenere, real Taleggio, Testun, pantaleo

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: srr

                    ssr,
                    Thanks for the info on the Vacche Rosse. Noticed the price and thought it must be something really special. I'll save my $$$ and go w/ another type!

                    1. re: srr

                      Prior to 1960, Parmigiano-Reggiano was made primarily from the milk of Reggiana cows, an Italian breed that has a red coat, hence the name Vacche Rosse (meaning red cows). The breed gives a fairly rich, high protein milk, but with a low yield, as breeds go. For this reason and for various other reasons, the breed went into a steep decline in the 1960's to the point of near extinction and was gradually replaced by Friesian-Holstein cows, which are world champions for the prodigious quantity of milk they give. However, their milk is lower in butterfat and protein. Several years ago, a small group of Parmigiano-Reggiano makers decided to revive the original way of making P-R with a herd of Reggiana cows.

                      Parmigiano-Reggiano Vacche Rosse (PRVR) sells at an approximately 50% premium over standard P-R, but it is also aged longer: 24-30 months vs. the basic 18 months for most exported P-R. Extra aging intensifies the flavors and you'll find more of the crunchy crystals that people love about P-R. I do think it's worthwhile trying an aged P-R, of which PRVR is but one example. You can occasionally find 3-, 4- or even 5-year old P-R. In the hands of a capable affineur (a person who specializes in aging wheels of cheese to perfection), these can be exquisite and well worth the extra cost.

                    2. Gladly Phoebe! All graded B+ be, 'cept * marks superiority.

                      Hard:
                      Briscole al Barbera, Grana Padana, Fiore (Peccorino) di Sardo*, Parmigiana*, Pecorino Foglie di Noce, Ubriaco Classico.
                      Semi Hard:
                      Ubriaco del Piave.
                      Semi Soft:
                      Crucolo, Moliterno al Tartufo*, Rosso di Langa, (Calciotta al) Tartufo.
                      Soft:
                      Brunet*, (Robiola) Rochetta.
                      Blue:
                      Gorgonzola (Mountain)

                      Buono appetito!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: DonShirer

                        Love Mountain Gorgonzola!

                        Another fave is Sottocenere--Italian truffle cheese.
                        http://cheese.about.com/od/cheeseofit...

                        Also second ThanksVille's burrata recommendation below, though I've not been lucky enough to eat it in Italy (YET).

                        1. re: DonShirer

                          Great list, couldn't have said it better myself

                        2. Is there a reason you're restricting yourself to Italian? (Just curious.)

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: shanagain

                            shanagain,

                            Yes, and no. I'm the OP for the cheddar post and was surprised at the large response. Figured it was time to learn more about Italian cheeses and try some, other than the ones I've listed above. Please feel free to list any type, from any country you really like. Was really just taking it one country at a time. I LOVE cheese!

                          2. Two great ones are La Tur and Ricotta Salata

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: jhopp217

                              La Tur is lovely - buttery and runny. Also mad about the burrata and taleggio mentioned above. And robiolina - mild and cream cheesy in texture - delicious on crostini or in a salad or on your fingers...

                              1. re: EM23

                                I still don't know if I've ever had Burrata. Ironically about an eighth of a mile from my house there is a brick oven pizza restaurant bearing the name. I've got to go in and try it. They have a burrata appetizer and pizza

                                1. re: jhopp217

                                  If it is freshly made, it might start a bad habit:-) I wouldn't bother with it on a pizza - just on its own or with summer tomatoes. Hope you post here if you do try it.

                            2. Absolute favorite hands down is a Gorgonzola dolce cremaficato that is so soft and sweetly runny that you spoon it. Put it side by side with a traditional mountain version and they are worlds apart.

                              Second favorite is a fresh burrata water buffalo mozzarella with rich liquid core that unfortunately does not travel well outside of Italy.

                              I agree with SRR's assessment of the red cow herd's parmignano. Good but not worth a quantum price jump. A well aged Reggio can be an epiphany and already is expensive enough.

                              Finally there are some extraordinary pecorino cheese variations, washed rinds, wrapped bundles in chestnut leaves, in hay, etc that are worth trying in a mini-tasting to find the version with greatest appeal.

                              I know it is heresy to toss in a French favorite into this mix but papillon's limited production of Roquefort is sublime and ruins you other versions

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: ThanksVille

                                Fresh burrata water buffalo mozzarella is one of my favourites. We try to find it every time we are in Italy. Another is our local soft Pecorino - it is delicious. Our friend who makes it also makes many other kinds of Pecorino (she studied cheesemaking in Italy) including lavender, peppercorn, etc. but the best are the aged and fresh.

                                1. re: chefathome

                                  I do love burrata as well - one of my favorites, so creamy/milky and yummy.

                                  1. re: chefathome

                                    Oh yes, burrata is the stuff dreams are made of. The Italian imports are, IMO, almost always superior to the stuff made in the US, even though the US stuff tends to be fresher. If you get a fresh one in Italy, though...there are no words.

                                  2. re: ThanksVille

                                    ThanksVille...How do you serve the gorg dolce crema mentioned above? Thanks!

                                    1. re: Phoebe

                                      Hate to admit it doesn't always make it to the table, or even back to the house.

                                      One time on the trip back from Murray's cheese we were stuck in a hideously slow line of traffic and my wife scooped it out of the container with torn pieces of a crusty baguette to keep the wolf at bay. Made it home witha nice assortment for a wine tasting dinner we were hosting but the cremaficato never made it back into Jersey.

                                      We have served it simply on crusts of semolina loaves where we pull off most of the bread and just leave behind the crusts.

                                      Also served on top of squares of grilled polenta so it melts and coats the top and sides (great with grilled lamb or fillets).

                                      Same concept, have mixed it into just boiled pasta, simple flat squares like the size of ravioli made with fresh pasta dough as it seems like a sacrilege to hide it in a tangle of toothy shapes.....did I mention just dividing it into bowls and serving with tiny espresso spoons?

                                      1. re: ThanksVille

                                        Love your story! Lucky for you a baguette was handy....Thanks for the suggestions. This is a "must" for me to try. It sounds heavenly!

                                  3. My fav is Testun a la Barolo. a round of cheese is immersed in the shmutz from the barolo wine making process and thus is covered in wine, and pips. Delicious and visually stunning.

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                      HA HA HA re schmutz! What is about Italian and Yiddish going together? ;) I can't think of an equivalent word in Italian, though.

                                      1. re: kattyeyes

                                        Food in Rome wouldn't be nearly as good without the Jews!

                                        1. re: Bigley9

                                          That is actually literally true.

                                          1. re: mbfant

                                            I was serious!

                                        2. re: kattyeyes

                                          Shmutz...schmaltz...guess I'm just a schmuck for good food!

                                        3. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                          This sounds incredible! I'd love to try it.

                                          1. re: chefathome

                                            Testun al Barolo is AMAZING stuff. Very limited production each year, though, so it can be hard to find.

                                        4. Piave is still my favorite.

                                          1. One of my favorites when I lived in Italy one summer was called Camoscio d'Oro - it was a rinded cheese that looked like Brie, but the innards were super buttery and delicious in a very different way from Brie. This was in Le Marche, near Pesaro, and I've never seen Camoscio d'Oro anywhere else even in Italy. This was also 15+ years ago, so my palate may have changed since then...

                                            1. Odd that hardly anyone's mentioned pecorinos, which are available at almost every age, flavor range, and piquancy. The Sicilian tuma and primosale pecorinos, out in late winter and spring, are youngest and younger, mild but with that distinct sheepy flavor I love; they're often shot through with whole peppercorns. Sicilian Incanestrato (or canestrato) has the same range and can be eye watering when sharp.. Caciotta and marzolino from Tuscany are also relatively young table cheeses, made for slicing and eating with pears. Really well aged and handled Tuscan pecorino (no need for truffle enhancers) is superbly warm and nut rich. From Calabria, or more likely Sardinia, are the smaller wheel pecorinos that are often called "crotonese" after the Calabrian province of Crotone, and they can be excellent--sharpish, fragrant, again if well handled, which many are not. Much of the everyday pecorino seen here is an industrial-scale product, often from Sardinia: nothing inherently wrong about this for everyday cheeses, but they often are poorly stored and served, even in Italian specialty shops. There are DOP pecorinos from Tuscany and Lazio and other regions--look for them. And taste where you can. Also: second a good aged caciocavallo (ragusana, from Sicily), and, for a change, a provola or scamorza--basically a mild, dry, slicing fiordilatte/mozzarella, smoked or not, for me an oddly addictive treat.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: bob96

                                                Thanks for all the info on the pecorinos. These are of particular interest to me. You've given me a good list to start with.

                                                1. re: bob96

                                                  I love pecorinos, although the types I tend to get are the vacuum sealed ones from the supermarket, and so they probably fall into the "not well handled" category you talked about. But they are still good.

                                                  So, how are they affected if not stored properly?

                                                  Years ago, I remember coming across a pecorino or crotonese that had an ash exterior. I loved it, but have not spotted anything like that ever since.

                                                  1. re: vil

                                                    By not well handled, I mean they develop off (funk) flavors and textures in their vacuum sealed plastic, and are kept too long if they are meant to be sold relatively young. Often, aged pecorinos so handled become dry, tasteless blocks.

                                                2. since tasting taleggio with recommendation on ChOTM I have enjoyed the cheese