A Tour of High-Quality Italian Cheeses

Generally, when looking for high-quality products, you mainly look for two characteristics: the price and the certifications. As for high-quality Italian cheeses, let’s explore the varieties of PDO cheeses together.

 

WHAT IS PDO?

PDO is an acronym that means “Protected Designation of Origin”. The aim of this certification is to protect the quality standards of food products, safeguard their production methods and provide consumers with information on the characteristics of the products and added value to the products themselves.

As for cheeses, receiving the PDO mark is a sign of the product’s excellence, the raw material, and the care and attention dedicated to production.

Here are a few PDO-certified high-quality Italian cheeses.

 

PIEDMONT PRIDE

Piedmont proudly boasts various types of cheese that have received the PDO mark.

Raschera DOP (PDO) is one of our personal favourites. It is produced only near Cuneo province and there are two types of Raschera: the typical one, round or with a classic squared shape, born from the need to be transported more easily on the backs of mules or the made from mountain pasture. Raschera is a cheese aged for at least one month. It has a raw, semi-hard white paste and its flavour is fine and delicate, fragrant. The more it is aged, the more it gets moderately spicy and savoury.

When you go for a hike in the mountains, don’t miss the polenta with lard, Raschera, and walnuts … unforgettable!

Others you may find in Piedmont are Castelmagno di Montagna DOP (PDO) and Bra Duro DOP (PDO).

cheese-tasting-guffanti-casera-palzola

 

SARDINIAN SPECIALTY

Fiore Sardo DOP (PDO) is an aged Pecorino typical of Sardinia. This sheep’s milk cheese has a hard and white paste, with a strong taste and slightly spicy and aromatic flavour.

Its origin is very ancient, dating back to the Nuragic civilization preceding the Ancient Rome Empire, and on the island, it represented the most produced cheese until the nineteenth century. 

The name Fiore Sardo derives from the ancient tradition (now abandoned) of using wooden molds on the bottom of which a flower similar to the peony rose was carved, accompanied by the initials of the producer, who marked the forms of cheese.

Try it with Pane Carasau, some ripe figs, or an onion chutney, you won’t regret it!

 

THE KING OF EMILIA ROMAGNA

When talking of high-quality Italian cheeses for each region… It would be a crime to forget that Parmigiano Reggiano DOP (PDO) comes from Emilia Romagna.

This cheese comes from farms in specific areas of Emilia Romagna, kept under strict control both from the point of view of the quality of the forage and the treatment of the animals. 

As we said here, this cheese also has a long history and it has become a product present in the house of each Italian family… and even abroad! Parmigiano Reggiano is an artisan cheese, and for this reason, each shape is unique. Also, depending on the aging, it takes on a very different consistency and taste, so it is very versatile in Italian cuisine.

Try a young Parmigiano Reggiano cheese paired with fresh seasonal fruit, such as apples, pears, grapes, and strawberries … It will be a pleasant surprise!

parmigiano reggiano wheels

 

TUSCAN DELICACY

Finally, Pecorino Toscano DOP (PDO) is the highest expression of the Tuscan cheese-making tradition. Its unique and delicate flavour tells a long history, which originates with the Etruscan people. Even now, it is produced exclusively with sheep’s milk from pastures in the area of origin. 

There are two types of Pecorino Toscano: soft and aged ones.

The ones with a soft texture have a minimum maturation period of 20 days (can go up to 45-60 days). It is recognized for its cylindrical shape and for the PDO mark drawn in ink on the side of the cheese. On the other side, the aged ones have a semi-hard paste and must age for at least 120 days (up to a year). It is recognized for its cylindrical shape and for the PDO brand, branded with fire on the side of the cheese.

Use it to garnish your pasta and serve it to your friends… a sure way to make a good impression!