Our Top 5 Cheeses For Your Italian Cheese board.
Nothing quite compares to the perfect Italian cheese board appetizer, but we all know that getting it right is a must, especially for the Italians! Let’s get straight to the point…. Building the best cheese board is ALL about picking the right cheeses.
In Italy… you’re spoilt for choice! There are over 300 different DOP (Denomination of Origin Protected) cheeses that give you endless cheese board possibilities. So exactly which Italian cheese should you pick? And why? Here are the all important factors to make your cheese board ideas tick every box.
Picking the Cheeses
First things first, it’s important to choose cheeses from various different milk sources to bring contrasting flavours and textures to the table, or board. We recommend using cheeses made from cow’s milk, water buffalo milk, sheep milk and goat’s milk for an all round taste sensation.
Cow’s Milk – Parmigiano-Reggiano
The famous Parmigiano-Reggiano is known in Italy as the ‘King of Cheeses’…. And we all know this title would never be thrown around lightly. When it comes to the best Italian cheese board, this cheese is a must. People often get this cheese mixed up with Parmesan… but Parmesan is simply an inferior imitation of Parmigiano cheese.
This gritty, hard textured cheese has a straw coloured interior and is perfect on your Italian cheese board served in little chunks. There is a sharp, complex nutty taste with strong savoury flavours that are entirely worth the maturation wait of up to three years.
Water Buffalo Milk – Mozzarella di Bufala
The most common, and maybe the tastiest buffalo cheese, is the famous Mozzarella di Bufala. For the ultimate taste, purchase this cheese from Italy as the species of water buffalo often varies from across the world. If you’re doing it… do it right!
This Italian cheese is perfect as it is firmer than cow’s milk mozzarella whilst maintaining fresh and tangy flavours. If you prefer a more savoury and mild taste, then there are differing varieties such as the Mozzarella di Buffala Classica. We’ll leave this one to you, but this is a mouthwatering softer cheese that is perfect for your cheese board.
Goat’s Milk – Gorgonzola
Are you a goat’s cheese lover? Even if not, I’m sure someone tucking into your cheese board still will be… so don’t miss this one out! We recommend Gorgonzola goat’s cheese, known as ‘the blue cheese of Italy’. This is a creamy and smooth Italian favourite that is usually aged around 60 days for a premium rich flavour.
Gorgonzola is also available from unskimmed cow’s milk and both styles of the Italian cheese taste amazing. The two main types are Dolce (sweet, creamy and tangy) and Piccante (offers a spicy aged taste). If you’re feeling adventurous, purchase a variety of Gorgonzola to find which version you love the most. If you prefer weaker tasting goat’s cheese, then look for a fresher version on the shelves of supermarkets. Love goat’s cheese? Look for an aged version for stronger flavours.
Sheep’s Milk – Pecorino
The ultimate sheep’s milk cheese is the famous Pecorino! This cheese is usually aged 1 to 2 months and is available in multiple varieties that vary in texture and toughness. Pecorino is usually creamy, crumbly and firm with pale yellow colours.
The flavour is salty, spicy and smoky with buttery notes and is easily sliced to form presentable and succulent squares. Pecorino Romano cheese was a staple in the diets of ancient Roman legionaries and is now consumed on a worldwide scale. We really owe it to the Roman’s for this one.
This cheese is perfect with many Italian foods… wine, bread, grated over pasta, focaccia or lasagna. You name it! It is used across many dishes at the Basil & Grape, check them out on our downloadable food menu.
Combined Milk – Scamorza
Our final cheese recommendation is a smokey and milky cheese that is chewy, firm and stringy when compared to our other cheese board recommendations. Although Scamorza is a common substitute for Mozzarella, the taste is more dominant and stronger with light notes of caramel.
Scamorza is made from pasteurised cow and sheep’s milk and has excellent melting qualities. This makes it perfect for baking or even for use as a gooey dip on your cheese board! The cheese is often presented in a pear like shape after being hung out in strings to ripen for roughly two weeks. The bright white colours help the cheese stand out amongst others on the plate.
Perfect Cheese Board Tips
A cheese board is similar to wine tasting in the fact there should be a structure to the tasting process. Just like you would start a meal with a crisp white wine, you should slowly ease into the cheese tasting for the best desired effect. For the best impression on your guests, order the cheese from the lightest to the strongest in terms of taste.
As the famous expression goes… variety is the spice of life! Try to mix your cheeses in terms of flavours so you have a contrast across the board. Using cheese from various different milk sources is a great way to do so. The same applies to the texture of the cheese. Try to use a range of soft, hard, crumbly and stringy cheeses to also widen the variety…. Your tastebuds will then be on a true journey across Italy.
A classic Italian cheese plate always contains bread, so do as the Italian’s do… and add plenty! The remaining accompaniments depends completely on personal preference. The focus of a cheese board should always be on the CHEESE, simply because this is the best part!
If you want a rustic experience, keep it simple. If you want to get creative, then do so… It all depends on personal preference. Whatever your style, if you follow our top 5 cheeses, you’ll be guaranteed to leave a great impression!