Ooooh la la Italian Cheese Delights I

I can only dream of these cheeses from my dream country, Italy. In the first place, my illness does not allow me to eat a lot of cheese. Aaargghh. But I can cheat can't I?

I relish and salivate just thinking about it and even without the accompanying wines.

STRACCHINO
A fresh, cow's-milk cheese from Italy's Lombardy region. Stracchino contains about 50 percent milk fat. Its flavor is mild and delicate - similar to but slightly more acidic than CREAM CHEESE. Stracchino Crescenza has a somewhat higher milk fat content, which results in a slightly creamier texture.

TALEGGIO
Hails from Italy's Lombardy region. It is rich (48 percent fat), semisoft cheese made from whole cow's milk. Its flavor can range from mild to pungent, depending on its age. When young, Taleggio's color is pale yellow and its texture semisoft. As it ages it darkens to deep yellow and becomes rather runny. Taleggio is sold in flat blocks or cylinders and is covered either with a wax coating or a thin mold. It's excellent with salad greens or served with fruit for dessert.

ROMANO
Is one of the oldest Italian cheeses. It is made by a special method, known as "rummaging curd" or draining the curd quickly after molding, then piercing the surfaces slightly before salt is applied. In Europe, Roman is known by its original name Pecorino-Romano. The cheese has a fat content of 27 per cent and water content of 32 per cent.

RICOTTA
Traditional, creamy, whey cheese made from cow's or sheep's milk. It is a basin-shaped cheese, pure white and wet but not sticky. Good Ricotta is firm, not solid and consists of a mass of fine, moist, and delicate grains. It is white, creamy and mild and is primarily used as an ingredient in lasagna. It is primarily made with cow's milk. Proteins from the whey separate and coagulate with the proteins or lactalbumin are skimmed off and put in a wicker basket to drain for two days after which the "cheese" is ready. There are three distinct varieties of ricotta: salata moliterna from ewe's milk whey, ricotta piemontese from cow's milk whey + 10% milk and ricotta romana which is a by product of Romano cheese production.

PROVOLONE
Is an all-purpose cheese used for cooking, dessert purposes and even grating. It is traditional, creamery, stretched, curd cheese. This cheese appears in various shapes. The thin, hard rind is golden-yellow and shiny. Sometimes it is waxed. Provolone cheese can be of various types. Dolce (mild Provolone) is aged for two to three months, and it is supple and smooth with a thin waxed rind. It is generally used as a table cheese. Aged for six months to two years, it is darker with small holes and a spicy flavor. However, some are aged 6 months to a year or more. As the cheese ripens, the color becomes a richer yellow and the flavor more pronounced. It is an excellent cooking cheese and aged provolones can be used for grating.

PECORINO ROMANO
Is made from sheep's milk. It is straw-white in color and has a sharper flavor than the other cheeses listed here. Pecora in Italian means sheep and Pecorino Romano is one of Italy's oldest cheeses. Legend has it that a shepherd filled his flask with sheep's milk before a long trip and the motion during the trip caused the milk to naturally ferment. The idea for a new cheese was born. Today most Pecorino is made in Sardinia, Italy. Most of these cheeses are aged and classified as GRANA (hard,granular and sharply flavored) however, the young, un-aged Ricotta pecorino is soft, white and mild in flavor. Aged pecorinos range in color from white to pale yellow and have a sharp, pungent flavor. The best known of this genre is Pecorino Romano, which comes in large cylinders with a hard yellow rind and yellowish-white interior. Other notable pecorinos are Sardo, Siciliano and Toscano. These hard, dry cheeses are good for grating and are used mainly in cooking. They can be used in any recipe that calls for PARMESAN CHEESE, especially if a sharper flavor is desired.

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