Say cheese!

I have a confession to make: I’m addicted to cheese. Or more precisely, cheddar cheese! I dread to think how many kilos I must have eaten in my life. It’s the one thing I miss more than anything else living in Italy. I can’t find it anywhere here. The closest cheese I can find is fontal, but while it has the consistency of cheddar (more or less), it lacks the flavour.

Italy has an abundance of cheeses, from the world-famous parmesan cheese to casu marzu in Sardinia (literally, rotten/putrid cheese in English) which contains live maggots. Needless to say, I haven’t tried this one!

casu marzu cheese

The Lodigiano area has its fair share of locally-produced cheeses, including tipico lodigiano ( a type of parmesan cheese that can only be made in the Lodigiano area), mascarpone, pannerone, and raspadura.

Mascarpone is that calorie-laden soft white cheese used in desserts such as tiramisu and is known in most of the world by now. I have tasted pannerone in risotto and other pasta dishes, but I must admit that I find it has quite a bitter, unpleasant taste. This is just my personal opinion, many other people love it!

My favourite local cheese has to be raspadura. A particular knife is used to scrape long slivers of parmesan from a whole wheel of cheese. It originally came about as a way of using imperfect wheels of cheese (Italians hate to waste any food!) but nowadays perfect wheels are used, seasoned to the right moment. Too long and it crumbles, too little and it doesn’t have enough flavour.

Usually served as an appetiser, together with cured meats, nuts or mushrooms, it is also used to garnish risotto or polenta. Personally, I love to eat it as it is, perhaps with a glass of cool white wine to wash it down!

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So while I forlornly wait for cheddar to arrive here in Italy, every now and then I try another cheese I find at the supermarket, just to ease the cravings, you understand. And if anyone from the UK comes to visit, the first thing I ask them is to bring me over a few blocks of cheddar. Which go straight in the freezer, to be eaten at leisure and every mouthful savoured over as if it was manna from heaven!

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