The Best of Italian Cheeses

The star of Italian food is most often its luxurious and decadent cheeses. The wide variety of artisanal cheeses from Italy offers an abundance of culinary possibilities. We’ve profiled some of the best for an easy, quick reference in the kitchen.

FRESH MOZZARELLA
Region of Origin: Southern Italy
Type: Soft to semi-soft
Flavor Notes: Mild and delicate with a fresh milky character.
Serving Suggestion: The quintessential Italian cheese – serving suggestion varies depending on variety. Use in simple salads, baked casseroles, pasta dishes, pizza and appetizers.

MASCARPONE
Region of Origin: Lombardy
Type: Soft
Flavor Notes: Mild, creamy and buttery.
Serving Suggestion: Use as a finisher on breakfast dishes and serve alongside prosciutto and cantaloupe. Also great in desserts like cannoli and trifles, the key ingredient in tiramisu.

BURRATA
Region of Origin: Apulia
Type: Soft
Flavor Notes: Rich and buttery with a fresh milky character.
Serving Suggestion: Wonderful with a tomato salad, as a crostini topper sprinkled with salt, pepper and olive oil, or on a pizza.

RICOTTA
Region of Origin: Perhaps Sicily region
Type: Soft to semi-soft
Flavor Notes: Delicate, sweet and nutty – if smoked, it takes on the flavor of whatever wood or herb was used.
Serving Suggestion: Most commonly used in lasagna, manicotti and other stuff ed pasta dishes. Great in breakfast items like stuffed French toast and also desserts.

PROVOLONE
Region of Origin: Basilicata, Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Veneto
Type: Semi-hard
Flavor Notes: Delicate, spicy and somewhat tangy when young, more piquant and salty after aging.
Serving Suggestion: On hoagies and paninis, pizza, casseroles and baked pasta dishes. The perfect addition to a charcuterie board.

PECORINO TOSCANO
Region of Origin: Tuscany
Type: Soft to semi-hard
Flavor Notes: With a high percentage of butterfat, Pecorino Toscano is a mild, oily cheese with a lot of depth. There are notes of olive flavor and nuttiness – aromatic and luxurious.
Serving Suggestions: Serve with prosciutto and a side salad, or pair with olives and a medium-bodied wine like Chianti.

FONTINA
Region of Origin: Valle d’Aosta
Type: Semi-soft to semi-hard
Flavor Notes: Full-flavored, sweet and buttery with notes of nuttiness
Serving Suggestion: Serve on top of pizza, with vegetables, stirred into polenta and with chicken dishes.

PARMESAN-REGGIANO
Region of Origin: Emilia-Romagna & Lombardy
Type: Hard Cheese
Flavor Notes: Full, rich and fruity complex flavors – slightly spicy, salty, briny and nutty.
Serving Suggestion: On anything and everything. Risotto, pasta, meat dishes, salads, soup, on a charcuterie board, you name it. Pair with an Italian red wine.

PECORINO-ROMANO
Region of Origin: Lazio, Sardinia & Tuscany
Type: Hard
Flavor Notes: Salty, fruity and piquant, the flavor of Pecorino-Romano gets more intense as it ages. Distinctively aromatic with pleasantly sharp taste.
Serving Suggestion: Grate on top of pasta dishes with highly flavored sauces, such as Spaghetti Carbonara.

ASIAGO
Region of Origin:
Veneto
Type: Semi-soft to hard
Flavor Notes: Slightly sweet, milky flavor when young; full-flavored, sharp and pungent when aged.
Serving Suggestion: Nice complement to pasta, pizza, soup and rice. Also perfect with a hearty bread and fruits like fresh figs or pears, or on bruschetta.