Here at I Love Imported Cheese one of our favorite ways to experience a country’s culture is through food and wine…with plenty of imported cheese of course. Let’s take a little tasting tour through what is arguably one of Europe’s culinary darlings – Italy!
With a wide range of classic and beloved dishes such as Roman Cacio è Pepe (try our one pan version here!), red sauce pastas like Lamb Bolognese with Pappardelle and Grana Padano , pizza, risotto, antipasto, pastries, and more; there are a myriad of Italian delicacies you probably know and love. The country also boasts over 500 unique wine varieties so there’s an endless array of tasting possibilities.
Cacio e Pepe
A fun way to create a unique Italian tasting experience for your friends and family is through an elaborate Italian Cheeseboard paired with some of the country’s delicious wines. It’s an effortless and easy entertaining option that’s perfect for grazing and sampling lots of different flavors.
♥ An Italian Cheeseboard
As always when composing a cheeseboard, be sure to choose a mix of milk types and textures for variety. Here we feature imported cow’s milk Ricotta, Bocconicini, Taleggio, Fontina, Asiago, crumbly aged Grana Padano, sheep’s milk Pecorino Fiore Sardo and a peppery Pepato plus a creamy blue Gorgonzola. Depending on the size of your group you can start with just 3 cheeses and add more as desired to suit the group. It’s a great idea to present your cheeses in a variety of shapes with some pre-sliced or crumbled to make them easier to enjoy.
Next, fill out your board with savory Italian charcuterie such as spicy soppresata, salami, pepperoni, and prosciutto (we wrapped ours around breadsticks for a fun touch!)
To add interest you can include Italian spreads such as pesto, olive oil, olive tapenade, or soft roasted garlic.
For a fresh, flavorful, and colorful pop add raw or pickled produce such as tomatoes, fresh basil, pickled cherry peppers, marinated artichoke hearts, olives, marinated mushrooms, or Italian Giardiniera salad.
We always love a little something sweet to complement the savory! Try honey with thyme which is classically served in the north of Italy, fresh or dried figs, and of course grapes.
Finish your board with some crostini, focaccia squares, garlic toast, thin grissini breadsticks, round taralli crackers, olive or rosemary bread, or simple Italian bread slices.
♥ Pairing Ideas
Once you’ve created your ultimate Italian Cheeseboard; here’s some inspiration for specific wine and cheese pairings to enjoy. As when wine tasting you can begin with lighter cheeses and wines and progress through aged cheeses with deeper red wines, finishing with a dessert pairing.
Soft fresh cheeses such as Mascarpone, Ricotta, or Mozzarella are best complemented by dry, floral whites and light-bodied reds such as Prosecco, Franciacorta, Garganega, or a bubbly red Lambrusco.
Light-bodied red wines like Barbera, Valpolicella, or Pinot Nero are balanced by the buttery richness of semi-soft cheeses such as Fontina or Taleggio. Fontina is an excellent melting cheese that’s perfect for another Italian classic…pizza! Try our Naan Pizza with Fontina, Sausage, & Crispy Mushrooms for an easy yet elevated weeknight dinner. Taleggio has a washed rind and buttery texture that’s delicious melted on elegant appetizers like our Crispy Polenta Bites with Taleggio and Mixed Mushrooms. Learn more about what makes washed rind cheeses so special in our “Cheesemaking 101”.
Naan Pizza with Fontina, Sausage, & Crispy Mushrooms
Next, move up to fuller bodied reds such as Chianti, Barbaresco, or Montepulciano paired with semi-hard and flavorful cheeses such as Provolone and Piave. The sharpness of imported Provolone pairs well with other strong flavors such as salume in sandwiches, or sausage and broccoli rabe. Be sure to try it in our Garlicky Calzones with Broccoli Rabe for a melty, savory dinner or appetizer.
Full bodied reds like Super Tuscans, Barolo, Dolcetto, and Amarone are matched in depth of flavor with hard, well aged cheeses such as imported Grana Padano, Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano Reggiano, and aged Asiagos.
Finally to end your tasting on a sweet note you can enjoy some Marsala or Moscato d’Asti dessert wine paired with blue Gorgonzola. If you’re a bit blue cheese shy be sure to try a mild creamy crowd-pleasing Gorgonzola Dolce. Tip! Any extras from your cheeseboard make a delicious garnish for all kinds of dishes such as our Orecchiette with Kale, Squash and Gorgonzola Dolce. For more about blue cheese see our piece “All About Blue”.
Orecchiette with Kale, Butternut Squash and Gorgonzola Dolce
As always with wine and food pairings, there really are no hard and fast rules other than to enjoy the pairing flavors you like best! Buon Appetito!