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The Experience of Italian Cheese

Updated on August 24, 2015

You gotta love Italian cheese

Being half Italian, and growing up in a home where Italian food was the staple of our diet, the taste of Italian cheeses were part of our heritage growing up, and the delicious and variety of types and flavors were a delight to eat and partake in.

What's fascinating about Italian cheeses, is they're like wine in the sense that they have a history, and in many cases, a region or locality in Italy they're connected with.

So when you eat Italian cheese, there's something not only satisfying in the flavor, but it becomes an event; something that feels like you're taking part in history, or rather, a continuation of history. Something of the region of Italy it comes from is part of the experience.

For an Italian, eating Italian cheese is more than a meal, it's a part of something bigger than ourselves, and even if you aren't Italian, when you eat Italian cheese there's something unique and different you experience and take with you - a part of Italy! 

Caciotta Italian cheese

Four sources of Italian cheese

There are four major sources of Italian cheese: cows, goats, buffalo and sheep. Each one has different properties, and has certain strengths and weaknesses. 

Italian cheese from cow's milk

Cow's milk is the standard other milk sources are measured by, not because it is necessarily superior, but because there's more of it than any other source, and so is used the most.

Quality of the milk used in making Italian cheese is dependent on a number of things, including what type of cow it is and what it is fed.

Italian cheese from goat's milk

Goat's milk is and excellent source for making cheese, and there are some difference between goat's milk and cow's milk that must be noted.

Fats contained in goat's milk is said to be under three percent and it is easier to digest than cow's milk. There is also less casein in the protein of goat's milk versus cow's milk.

Goat's milk is better to use in fresher cheese, as it doesn't work as well with cheeses targeted for long staging.

Buffalo's milk

Other than it looks different and has a sweeter taste than cow's milk, buffalo's milk also differs significantly in the amount of fats and proteins it has, which are more than cow's milk.

This is important because say in the case of Mozzarell cheese, buffalo milk will produce far more than a cow's will, with yields close to double of what a cow's milk will produce.

Montasio Italian cheese - great with wine

Sheep's milk

Sheep's milk is higher in fat content than cow's milk, and so is great for making yogurt and other things. It's fat content is from 10 to 11 percent; high for any type of milk.

Protein content in sheep's milk is also higher in protein than cow's milk.  

Types of Italian Cheeses

For the most part, all Italian cheese is made once the curds are ready, and depending on the temperature they were cooked at, developed into a variety of cheeses.

The curd thus is the foundation of cheese making, and it's what is done afterwards with it that makes the cheese the strain or type it is.

Ricotta cheese is an exception to this basic rule, in that it is created by simply heating whey at a certain temperature, and separating the liquid from the resultant flakes, which make ricotta what it is.

There are three basic types of cheese that emerge from the curd, and they are woven cheeses, pressed cheeses, and cooked or semi-cooked cheeses.

I don't want to bore you with all the details of each process, but what's important to know is Italian cheese and its numerous varieties for the most part are shaped and formed from curds, and how you press them, the temperatures you cook them at, and the length of time you even leave them alone, which can extract much of its salt content, making them elastic and moldable.


Various treatments are what cause cheeses to be soft, hard or semi-hard. Again, to get into them would just bore most people, the idea is to appreciate the process and various means of producing such a rich variety of cheeses the world has appreciated and enjoyed for centuries. 

Varieties of Italian cheeses

I don't know, and I don't think anyone knows the varieties of Italian cheeses there are. They literally are in the hundreds, if not thousands.

You could probably eat a different cheese each day for years and never exhaust the number of Italian cheeses available.

Many Italian cheeses are made for export purpose on a major scale, others are definitely high-end luxury types, which can cost thousands of dollars per block.

How to make fresh mozzarella cheese from curd

Try new Italian cheese flavors

If you've never gone beyond sampling and eating the few more popular Italian cheeses, you owe it to yourself to try out some new choices, as the  tastes and flavors can differ wildly, and surprise you in how they fit in with certain meals or drinks.

Wow this has my Italian blood boiling and my stomach growling. I think I'll go and get some cheese to munch on after tiring and torturing myself talking about Italian cheese so much.


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      garyglen 8 years ago

      Simple, yet a very informative article. Great overview of the types of milk used in Italian cheese.