Cheese is a very versatile food and people from all over the world love it! Did you know that only Italy produces over 400 different kinds of cheese? Depending on their texture and taste they can be used to make different recipes. For instance, a sprinkle of Italian hard cheese is perfect for savory pasta dishes. Moreover, Italian cheese blends make delicious sauces for pasta recipes. Finally, Italian cream cheese is a secret ingredient for some desserts. do you feel in the myriad of Italian cheeses list? To become more familiar with traditional cuisine in Italy, one should know which are the most famous types of Italian cheese and how they are traditionally used to prepare tasty recipes.
15 Best Italian cheese types
You’ll find below a list of the 15 most famous Italian cheese types. Along with that, you can see the use of different Italian cheese blend, like the Italian blue cheese, sharp Italian cheese types, and traditional dishes in which specific types of Italian cheese are being used.
You can learn about some of the best Italian hard cheese types, and different types of soft Italian cheese. Foodies can learn how long the cheese needs to age and which is the best pair for certain kinds of cheese. Some of these are also great to be paired with great white wine, red wine, or sparkling wine as well! Now, let’s dig into our Italian cheeses list!
1. Parmigiano Reggiano
When it comes to the greatest types of Italian cheese, parmesan is number one! Above all, we have to name Parmigiano Reggiano, which is a typical sharp Italian cheese from the Emilia Romagna region. Most people are familiar with this classic Italian cheese and tried it at least once. Italians have been consuming it since the Middle Ages.
The more it ages, the more this Italian hard cheese gains a richer flavor. The texture is crumbly, the taste is savory and salty. Parmigiano Reggiano offers its best if aged between 26 and 30 months. Use Parmesan for these dishes: grate it fresh on pasta, gnocchi, and salads.
The best Italian cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano can be used in different delicious recipes, such as Torta Salata, sauces, risotto, Carbonara, and much more. Whatever you sprinkle with fresh grated Parmesan, that dish is no way to no become delicious.
After living in Italy for 2 years, I finally tried for the first time a Taleggio on my birthday. Well, I must say, the birthday isn’t the only thing I’m going to celebrate on this day from now on. I also found one of the most delicious types of Italian cheese, that I have ever tried.
If I think better, Taleggio actually became one of my overall favorite types of cheese. This is a semisoft Italian cheese that is washed-rind, smear-ripened and it got its name from the Val Taleggio (the valley). Taleggio has a strong aroma, thin crust, a fruity tang, and it’s super soft. Just like some similar Italian cheeses, Taleggio is around since Roman times.
Today, production is in autumn and winter time, and it’s made both from pasteurized milk and raw milk. At least those are made in a factory. If you’re looking for the perfect taste, you make sure to search for fresh, small-production brands! Also, if you ever tried fondue, let me just tell you that I personally found Taleggio tastier than the Brie or Camembert, so I really suggest melting it, and tasting after!
3. Pecorino Romano
One of the most delicious Italian cheese types, which is also a sharp Italian cheese is definitely the Pecorino. Especially the Pecorino Romano that’s the base ingredient of many great dishes, such as Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe and Pasta alla Carbonara. Both of them are withing the most famous Roman pasta dishes.
Pecorino is an Italian hard cheese made with sheep milk. The flavor can be slightly nutty, salty, or tangly depending on the aging time. There are different aged Pecorinos, and also these cheese types vary from region to region. As mentioned, one of the most famous is the Pecorino Romano, which is one of those cheeses that you should bring back home after you have visited Rome or its surroundings.
Besides the Pecorino Romano, there are another 5 main pecorino cheese types. Some of the most popular are also the Pecorino Sardo, Pecorino Toscano, Pecorino Siciliano and plenty of others. The difference between these pecorino types is the slightly different process that determines the flavor of the pecorino cheese.
4. Grana Padano
The next one that made our Italian cheeses list is the Grana Padano. This is another sharp Italian cheese, but it’s aged for less, and it’s much lighter in taste than the Parmigiano Reggiano. Many people tend to confuse Grana Padano with Parmigiano because the way this cheese is being used is really similar.
Not like the parmesan which is made with sheep milk, Grana Padano is a hard, crumbly-textured cheese made with unpasteurized cow milk that’s semi-skimmed through a natural creaming process. The aging of Grana Padano is usually between 9 and 16 months.
The difference exists, however, for instance, that Grana Padano is produced in the region of Lombardy, but also Trentino Alto Adige, Piedmont, Emilia Romagna, and Veneto. Grana Padano’s origin though points us to the Po river, and the region of Emilia Romagna where there are over 150 factories that produce Grana Padano cheese.
Mozzarella is the best Italian cheese for pizza, and it is indeed the most famous soft Italian cheese out there. What you should know firsthand is that there are different varieties of Mozzarella. The cheapest version is made with cow milk, and this is used mostly on pizza too.
There’s a traditional, more savory type of Mozzarella which is made by using buffalo milk. This is called the Mozzarella di Bufala. Usually, the buffalo mozzarella is not just more expensive, but for culinary reasons, it’s used mostly when we’re looking for the highest quality ingredients.
The Mozzarella di Bufala is creamier and somewhat lighter, but definitely more delicious than the simple cow milk mozzarella. There’s also the Bocconcini which are smaller mozzarella balls that Italians love to use as appetizers and for salads as well. In supermarkets, you can find also mozzarella blocks.
These are the harder and less tasty version that is great to shred and use for pizza because it’s not kept in a liquid, and it does not release liquid during the baking process. The other version is kept and sold in their water, in small plastic bags.
As mozzarella is very versatile, is also a typical filling for sandwiches. You can also use mozzarella for dishes like salads, and especially Caprese salad. This is a delicious and simple summer salad that requires just a few ingredients, such as mozzarella and fresh tomatoes. Season it with salt, basil, and olive oil. In a few minutes, it’s ready to eat!
Gorgonzola is the best, most famous, and most delicious Italian blue cheese. When it comes to the best Italian cheese as appetizer, there will be something made with Gorgonzola, or there will be someone who’s bringing specifically this type of Italian cheese for a homemade, shared appetizer.
Gorgonzola with its unmistakable pungent smell and strong flavor has also a creamy texture and it gets firmer when it’s stored in the fridge. The savory cheese is made with whole milk and the addition of particular bacteria which during the aging process will be responsible for the flavor and mold.
There are both sweet and spicy versions of Gorgonzola. The difference lies in the aging process, as the spicy version ages for a longer period than the sweet one. You can use Gorgonzola as an appetizer, in different pasta dishes, gnocchi sauce, but also for risotto, dips, and even blue cheese soup.
Now, you might have heard about the “four-cheese sauce” which is really delicious to be served with gnocchi. This sauce is made with Gorgonzola, Emmental, Taleggio, and grated Parmesan cheese with milk/fresh cream. Everyone who loves cheese, or who’s simply a foodie that wants to try different great quality products will find Gorgonzola a real delight.
7. Fiore Sardo
Fiore Sardo is another important type of sharp Italian cheese we must mention. The area of origin is the island of Sardinia, and it’s an Italian hard cheese that we, who live in Italy love to bring home with us when we’re returning from our summer vacations in Sardinia.
Fiore Sardo is produced with sheep milk, mainly of the Sardinian breeds. The shepherds still use the wood fire in preparation, which gives the cheese a light smoke. Now, the smell and aroma of the Fiore Sardo are really intense and the cheese itself is delicious!
Maturing, aging this Italian cheese is made in three phases and it’s lasting for a total of 105 days. The rind of Fiore Sardo is hard, smooth or wrinkled, and greasy. Als, the dough, the inside of the cheese is hard, tending to crumble. Fiore Sardo is recommended at second courses or at the end of the meal.
8. Asiago Fresco
Asiago looks much like the Romanian Cas cheese, only that that’s made of different milk. This is made of cow’s milk and it’s a type of cheese that’s not matured. This is why it’s called Asiago Fresco because it’s fresh and soft. With aging, Asiago becomes crumbly.
While Asiago is originating from the Italian alpine area, the Asiago plateau belongs to the region of Veneto and Trentino- Alto Adige. With that said, this cheese is more popular in the northern regions. This cheese type, the fresh one is great for Aperitives, wines, and salads as well. Asiago is also very popular in the region of Emilia Romagna, and that’s where I’m writing from.
9. Scamorza Affumicata
Scamorza is a big favorite in many Italian regions. This is a southern Italian cheese made of cow’s milk. The Scamorza is made of stretched-curd cheese and it’s generally formed into two round shapes, and they string it at the 1/3, which forms a bigger and a smaller ball. Thanks to this, the Scamorza actually reminds us of a snowman.
The unsmoked Scamorza is white, but we prefer the smoked one. It has a really unique taste, and it’s delicious on Frittata, sandwiches, and salty tarts. Scamorza can be used on many dishes, as sides, aperitifs, and the unsmoked one is a good replacement for the Mozzarella in food.
Burrata is also an Italian cheese made with cow milk, while occasionally it’s made with buffalo milk. It’s made from mozzarella and cream basically. The outer casing of the Burrata is solid cheese, with the texture of the mozzarella. Inside, however, it contains stracciatella and cream, which gives it an interesting and soft texture.
Burrata is typical in the Puglia region (Apulia), and it’s a typical product in Murgia. Now, this cheese doesn’t date back to Roman times, but to the 1900s’ to the Bianchini brothers. It became available for more cheese factories only after the 1950s’ and it’s been around since.
The Burrata was an artisanal cheese, and it has maintained its premium-product status up until now. It’s also interesting in the making since the still-hot cheese is formed into a pouch, then, this is filled with the scraps of leftover mozzarella and it’s topped with fresh cream.
Then, this is wrapped in the leaves of asphodel and it’s tied in a way that it forms a brioche-like topknot. Now the Burrata has a rich and buttery taste. It’s used with salads, simple Prosciutto Crudo, on pizza, and as an appetizer.
11. Puzzone di Moena
We in Emilia Romagna especially love the Puzzone di Moena. Its name literally means tasty pressed cheese and it’s a washed rind, fat, and semi-hard pressed cheese made of raw cow milk. Puzzone di Miona is produced in Moena, in Val di Fasse, Val di Fiemme, and Valle di Primiero in the region fo Trentino – Alto Adige.
As for its taste, texture, and style of making, it’s really similar to the Asiago, and it’s consumed the same way, more or less. Puzzone di Moena is a semi-hard, light straw-colored Italian cheese with a robust, slightly spicy taste. Something light but still tasty, and memorable.
12. Provolone Valpadana
Closing our list with types of Italian cheese you should know about, we arrived at another favorite. Provolone Valpadana is an Italian hard cheese, that’s actually categorized in the middle category, just as the Fontina or the Scamorza. Provolone has creamy, nutty, and tangy notes that make it the favorite cheese of many.
This Italian cheese is made of cow milk too and you could find two versions of Provolone Valpadana. A sweet and a spicy one. The first one ages for about 30 days, while the second one can be aged for up to 16 months.
You can use Provolone in sandwiches, appetizers, Italian cheese boards, and also in different dishes. A few of them would be the quiche, pie, meat stuffings. You can also use Provolone to make grilled cheese, since it’s melting very easily, and it’s delicious.
We are not quite finished with soft Italian cheese types, so here comes another big favorite, the Mascarpone. This is also well-known Italian cream cheese, since we all know and tried at least once (if not every few weeks) the famous Italian dessert, the Tiramisu.
Mascarpone is a very rich, smooth, and creamy type of Italian cheese made from cow milk cream and thickened with an acidic element like lemon juice. After that, it is heated strained, and chilled to get the typical consistency. Mascarpone is famous for many different delicious desserts around the world, but nothing can conquer a great Tiramisu!
You can use mascarpone for the two times mentioned Tiramisu, but also in different smoothie cups and creamy desserts with fruits, cheesecakes, soups, pasta, and gnocchi recipes. The main use though remains for desserts. Also, the delicate taste pairs really well with fresh fruit and chocolate.
Fontina must be mentioned on our Italian cheeses list, mostly because it’s a type of cheese which has similar types to find all over the world. You could think about the Gouda, a softer Cheddar, or the Hungarian Trappista, they are really similar in taste to the Fontina.
Fontina is a hard cheese made with cow milk, and it has a soft and melting-in-the-mouth texture. This is the symbolic cheese of the Aosta Valley. Fontina producers use whole fresh milk to make this cheese and the aging lasts for a minimum of three months.
Depending on the period of production, the aroma and taste of the Fontina cheese can vary, but it always must remain soft enough to seem elastic. It appears pitted with blobby holes. You can use Fontina for sandwich filling and appetizers first. Then, you can also use it for fondue, especially the softer ones, since it’s melting very easily. Moreover, you can also use Fontina to make pasta with truffles or other types of mushrooms.
If you’re looking for creamy, sweet soft Italian cheese, you’ve found one! Ricotta is a very popular Italian cream cheese that’s being used in different salty and sweet dishes, pastries, and salads. This cheese has a crumbly texture, with a rich, yet delicate flavor.
A similar cheese we can give you as an example of how Ricotta is would be Cottage Cheese. Ricotta can be made with different types of milk. There is a baked version with dark crust, and smoked ricotta, and one to grate on pasta too. Italians use ricotta in pasta filling and gnocchi, gelato, and Sicilian cannoli cream among many others.
In fact, the delicate taste of Ricotta cheese and the creamy texture makes it suitable for many sweet dishes and desserts. You can use Ricotta for dishes such as ravioli with spinach and ricotta, or cannelloni filling, pasta sauces, cakes, and even deep-fried Ricotta,
Wrapping up the 10 best Italian cheese types
Wrapping up our Italian cheeses list and moving on! Now that we’ve heard of different Italian cheese blend and cheese types, we have two questions left! Which is your favorite way to use sharp Italian cheese?
Do you love any Italian traditional recipe made with cheese? There is a cheese for all tastes: Italian hard cheese, Italian cream cheese, soft Italian cheese Italian blue cheese, Italian cheese pizza. In other words, there is a type of Italian cheese for everyone!
Hungarian article: Olasz sajtok
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Original article was written by Eleonora Rossi – Updated in January 2022