Italy has a great variety of cheese, ranging from fresh, mild creations like mozzarella to aged,
hard cheeses with very mature flavor, such as Parmesan. All types of milk are used, including
sheep, goat, and buffalo. Italian cheeses can be diviided into four categories: hard semi-soft,
soft, and fresh. Many Italian cheeses are eaten at different stages of maturity.
Most Italian cheeses can be be eaten on their own and
used for cooking. This guide describes some of Italy's best
known and most loved cheeses.
The word ricotta literally means 'recooked',
and it describes the cheese made when
whey, the watery residue from the making
of another cheese, is cooked again.
Always wrap a soft cheese in parchment or
wax paper; rewrap it in a new piece after each
use to prolong freshness. These breathable
materials prevent mold-causing moisture
from collecting on the surface without drying it
out. Only after it's wrapped should you put the
cheese in a plastic bag or plastic wrap. Hard
cheeses, such as Parmesan, can be stored
directly in plastic wrap. Because of their low
moisture content, hard cheeses aren't at as
much risk of drying out.
Store cheese in the vegetable crisper area of
your refrigerator. This area is warmer than
the rest of the fridge but still cool and dry
enough. The flavor of cheese constantly
evolves as it ages, even after you bring it
home. Very cold temperatures will stall its
flavor development, while too much heat or
humidilty will encourage bacterial growth,
leading to mold.