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The most esteemed cheeses of Italy are perhaps the two ancient Latin versions that are made from the milk of sheep that date way back before the founding of Rome and are still popular choices today.
One is the creamy ricotta and the other is the hard pecorino. Pecorino has been around for over 3 000 years and is still hugely popular, accounting for at least one-seventh of all cheese consumption in Italy, but the version from Sardinia, pecorino Sardo, comes in a close second, although it is also made and found throughout many regions of Italy.
The island of Sardinia boasts a cheese even older than the two Latin versions. Here we refer to the delicious, salty white goat’s milky feta which is almost identical to that found in Greece which is made on the island.
The fontina from Valle d’Aosta is used for making the famous melted cheese dish, fonduta. This cheese goes back in time with the very earliest written version of it dating back to 1477, although, according to historical records, cheese in this area dates back much further than that.
The Italian cheese most widely recognised by foreigners is Parmesan, which, when grated, is sprinkled freely over minestrone and pasta and is excellent eaten on its own. Parmesan dates back at least 2 000 years.
Many dishes owe their special flavours to Italian cheeses. The three cheeses extensively used in Italian cooking are Parmesan, Mozzarella and Ricotta, although there are numerous other cheeses that will delight the palate such as gorgonzola, mascarpone, caciocavalla and stravecchione, to mention a few of the many to grace our plates and tables.