Say cheese! Your guide to the Italian cheeses – both hard and soft – that go best with prosciutto

  How often have you cut open a plump, round ball of burrata and watched delightedly as the creamy goodness …

Cuisine

 

How often have you cut open a plump, round ball of burrata and watched delightedly as the creamy goodness oozes out onto your plate?

Cheese lovers will know and love this ritual – the first cut is one of those moments that’s anticipated and enjoyed in equal measure.

If you have done this yourself, or have ever had a cheese party for one, you might just be a Turophile. That’s the official name for a lover of cheeses. If you’re a cheese aficionado, then you’ll have your own favourite cheeses and rituals but read on for some of ours, plus some great recipe ideas.

Different cheeses can really transform the way you appreciate prosciutto, with each different cheese offering a different taste profile.

We love to celebrate food from our Friuli Venezia Giulia region, and when it comes to cheese, we especially love local Montasio DOP cheese. We mature our Prosciutto di San Daniele for a minimum of 13 months, but that’s not the only speciality worth waiting for in our region.

Local Montasio mountain cheese is aged for a minimum of two months.Said to have been around since the 13th century, it’s a compact, semi-hard cheese that was traditionally made by monks living in an abbey at the top of the Carnic Alps – the same Alps that help to make our Prosciutto di San Daniele so special, as winds blowing down from the Alps meet the breezes coming in from the Adriatic Sea, creating a unique micro-climate in San Daniele.

Made from cow’s milk, it’s creamy with a natural rind and is a pale yellow of gold colour (the colour can change depending on how long it has been aged for). Look out for the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) trademark when buying it and check out the rind, which is typically stamped with the date of production.

Montasio cheese

You’ll often see Prosciutto di San Daniele together with semi-hard cheeses on cheese trays and as an appetizer. The sweet and salty taste of prosciutto is perfectly matched with a stronger cheese, especially those with a nutty or fruity flavour – something like Taleggio  DOP. This semi –hard, washed-rind cheese is named after Val Taleggio, an Alpine valley in Lombardy. Its strong aroma masks a mild taste, but its thin crust and fruity tang give it lots of flavour.

Another great prosciutto pairing is Grana Padano DOP, hailing from the Po River Valley in the north-east of Italy. It’s a hard, pale yellow cheese, deliciously full-flavoured with a fruity aroma and nutty taste. Crumbly, grainy and dense (‘grana’ means grainy in Italy), it’s a fantastic addition to any prosciutto and cheese board. First created by Cistercian monks in the 11th century, it’s made from raw, semi-skimmed cow’s milk.

When it comes to soft and semi-soft cheeses, mozzarella is one of the most famous around. Made from milk, or from buffalo milk when it is buffalo mozzarella – Mozzarella di latte di bufala. The plump, soft round balls and the whiteness of the colour all attest to its freshness, and of course, many of us know and love it from its ubiquitous use in pizza recipes. But placed on a plate, with a sharp knife for cutting and a few slices of prosciutto and fresh tomato with basil, it’s a delicious any-time snack in its own right or to make a delicious salad, serve up Prosciutto di San Daniele with roasted melon slices, fresh mozzarella and basil on a crisp bruschetta.

While mozzarella and burrata are both types of semi-soft Italian cheese, and look similar to each other, they’re not the same. It’s true that both are deliciously creamy, but burrata takes the creaminess a step further – it’s mozzarella with added cream! When you cut open a ball of burrata, the creamy inside spills out. That’s because if has a solid outer curd made from mozzarella, but it’s filled with a soft, stringy curd and fresh cream.

If this has whetted your appetite and you’d like to try some recipes for yourself, our friend, Chef Andrea Mantovani, of Mele e Pere and Gotto Trattoria in London, created a delicious recipe featuring Prosciutto di San Daniele, potatoes and Montasio cheese – ‘Gnocchetti ‘ with Montasio and Prosciutto di San Daniele’.

Or try this tasty brunch – bake eggs in a ramekin, lined with Prosciutto di San Daniele and layered with goat’s cheese.  Serve with sautéed spinach and cherry tomatoes roasted in olive oil and fresh basil.

Buon appetito!