Browsing over one hundred types of Italian cheese can easily overwhelm new foodies with uncertainty and fear of missing out on the best-tasting Italian food in your city.
On the contrary, it can excite culinary artists and remind those with a rich Italian heritage of the variety, delicious bold flavors, and unique new textures that Italian cheese can pair with almost any dessert and savory meal.
That’s why we’ve made it easy for you to find your perfect match by documenting the best types of Italian cheeses for that special occasion.
Whether it’s impressing your family and friends with a new Italian dish or finding the perfect cheese to pair with your wine tasting events, we took the hard work out of shopping so you can cook, enjoy, and repeat.
Nestled inside the nook of the Mar Tirreno seacoast is a beautiful Southern Italian city named Campania that creates beloved tangy Mozzarella Italian cheese.
You can find Mozzarella in various soft, stretched textures and tangy flavors. In Campania, Mozzarella is a spun paste named pasta filata.
It is stretched until smooth with water and cow’s milk and paired with traditional Italian dishes and outstanding culinary creations.
You’ll find Mozzarella Milanese in most Italian homes that love Mozzarella– cut, lightly floured, batter-dipped, feathered with breadcrumbs and fried to a crispy sun-kissed golden brown. And, well, Mozzarella on pizza speaks for itself.
Gorgonzola cheese is the oldest yellow cheese marbled with blue veins and a sour aroma.
It ages for four months until mild or sharp to taste. In Northern Italy, Gorgonzola makers use cow’s milk and aging to craft nutty cheese flavors that compliment honey and figs.
It is a blue cheese dolce and piccante variety. Gorgonzola dolce is sweet, aged between one and three months for dried soups and sweet vinaigrettes.
Gorgonzola can age past three months into a crumbly creamy cheese for risotto, polenta, and antipasti.
Gorgonzola is a fan favorite drizzled over slices of pizza, filet mignon, and sliced with swiss cheese and fresh melon.
Mascarpone is a milky, light, soft, sweet triple cream cheese with a tart edge that bakers often describe as Italian cream cheese.
And if the name Mascarpone rings a bell, think tiramisu, cannoli, and cheesecake.
Although its origins in Lombardy, Italy, give it prestige, Mascarpone is in a category of its own.
Mascarpone is Traditionally crafted with lemon juice and heavy cream to thicken any risotto or sweeten any dessert.
Slightly acidic, buttery, creamy, and milky are just a few words to describe Mascarpone’s wide range of use that can amplify Italian desserts and savory foods.
It makes for a flavorful tomato Rigatoni pasta or a creamy Gemelli Pasta.
Parmesan (or Parmigiano Reggiano)
So you think you love parmesan cheese, but have you tried authentic Parmigiano Reggiano?
Parmesan in the US is synonymous with any hard Italian dry cheese, grated, labeled, and placed on grocery shelves.
However, Parmigiano Reggiano is a sharp, nutty, grainy, textured ancient cheese carefully crafted by monks in northern Italy and desired by culinary chefs and home cooks worldwide.
It is a crucial ingredient for alfredo pasta, grated over salads and soups, and paired with red wines.
Artisanal cheese makers craft Parmigiana Reggiano according to a strict 17th-century Italian law that preserves the quality and parmesan —aging for no less than ten months.
Pecorino is one of many Italian varieties of cheese crafted from sheep’s milk into a buttery flavor often blended with red chili and black peppercorn spices.
It is a hard cheese that can shape into three textures.
Fresco Pecorino is the youngest of the pecorino cheese ages. It is sweet, grassy, and ages for about three days.
Wine devotees love to pair Fresco Pecorino with white wine and pears—Semi-Stagionato Pecorino ages for five months and pairs best with bold red wines.
Stagionato ages for almost a year until crumbly in texture, nutty in taste and aroma, and lightly finishes with a touch of olive oil to protect the cheese from seasonal changes.
Ricotta has been the most popular soft, sweet Italian cheese and a culinary favorite for thousands of years.
But rather than an authentic Italian cheese, Ricotta is a latticino left over from dairy milk– ricotta di mucca uses cow milk, and ricotta di Pecora uses sheep milk.
Instead of wasting the creamy waste, Italians ferment, cook, and filter the leftovers creating sweet-tasting ricotta cheese with preservatives, additives, or fillers.
Ricotta di mucca is the best option for filling raviolis, tortellinis, and pastries.
Ricotta di Pecora blends well into pasta sauces and pasta bakes that compliment eggplants, zucchini, and spinach.
I always have Ricotta on hand so that I can serve it with pasta. I even replaced the potato in my usual gnocchi recipe with Ricotta once when I was craving the dish but didn’t have the ingredients.
I was surprised at how delicious it was for an off-the-cuff recipe.
Taleggio, also known as Taleggio dop di Peghera, arrives every fall and winter semi-soft and smear-ripened with tangy flavors that age for ten weeks or until an outer crust forms.
And in the old tradition, the cheese ages in Val Taleggio cave instead of modern wood chambers.
With frequent seawater washes that prevented mold from spoiling delicate batches.
Taleggio is quite smelly with a mild taste that melts into a perfect stream fit for polenta, Ricotta, and your favorite tagliolini, pasta ai Quattro formaggi, or spaghetti dishes.
Burrata Italian cheese was born in Puglia, the small town on the southeastern sea side of Italy that stretches mozzarella cheese and fills it with cream-soaked stracciatella cheese.
It is rich on the outside and creamy on the inside.
Burrata tastes best with sea salt and olive oil to taste paired with your favorite bread.
However, it has a mild flavor to the savory tastes you find on charcuterie boards—Burrata transforms classic stone fruits into fresh, colorful salads.
My favorite way to eat Burrata is fairly simple. I put it on top of toast that I have rubbed garlic on and spread with butter, then topped with a slice of tomato before topping it with Burrata.
Fontina is everything you want in an Italian cheese– creamy, buttery, sweet, roasted hazelnut flavors that surprise your taste buds after every bite.
It is a traditional craft that smooths unpasteurized cow’s milk into semi-hard cheese.
You can find this cheese in abundance in the Aosta valley. However, cheese devotees have found great pleasure in Danish, Swedish, and American-inspired Fontina flavors using the same simple ingredients and process.
Mix milk into a copper cauldron until curds, strain, and brine for three months until ready for cheese fondue, pepperoni calzone, or stuffed chicken bakes.
Asiago d’Allevo can be a savory mixture of whole and skim milk, rennet, and curds, kneaded, dry-aged, and aged in brine for months and sometimes years.
And you can never go wrong enjoying fresh Pressato Asiago with traditional Italian pasta dishes like asiago alfredo pasta and Asiago Mezzano drizzled with honey on a cheese plate.
Or add bitter, mildly spicy Asiago Vecchio and Stravecchio to soups like Asiago bisque.
Although Asiago used to be well known as poor man’s parmesan, Asiago has a rich nutty flavor that anyone with a taste for delicious types of Italian cheeses can enjoy daily.
Grana Padano is a unique nutty-savory flaky cheese that Cistercian monks from northern Italy’s Po Valley province aged and perfect for over nine months.
However, today’s artisans use the same Grana Padano process without preservatives or fillers.
They pour fresh milk into copper cauldrons that transform into curds, set into the brine, and aged until it reaches the perfect color, texture, and smell to form a perfect Grana Padano.
Many home cooks enjoy Grana Padano with pasta such as Cacio e Pepe, a cheese and pepper dish.
And as a garnish for prosciutto, steak, chicken, artichoke, and eggplant.
Provolone is a white cheese rich with calcium and protein with a smooth, nutty, yet mild flavor that many creameries and food lovers adore.
It is spun and stretched from the curd into a bubble of flawless brined cheese that ages for two months.
In Italy, Provolone is dolce or piccante. Provolone dolce ages for two months until sweet.
And Provolone piccante ages for over four months– it tastes sharp and delicious over grilled meat.
However, Provolone is mild and often the best option for sandwiches in the US.
However, the Italians grate Provolone Piccante over plates of pasta and pizzas. And pair them with pears, figs, bread, and olive oil.
If you haven’t noticed, southern Italians love spun cheese, and Scamorza is a pasta filata family favorite.
It is turned and strung from cows into a pear shape until semi-soft and aged for two weeks. You can find Scamorza fresh or smoked as Scamorza Affumicata.
Scamorza Bianca is well known for enhancing baking dishes inside the oven. Scamorza Affumicata is desired for its light brown and smoky aroma on savory foods for the grill.
Scamorza is creamy and sweet, with hints of caramel that wine devotees tend to gravitate towards when pairing Pinot Grigio and Orvieto wines.
I love to have baked Scamorza, served with a good quality toast, as an afternoon snack or appetizer.
Stracciatella is the best part of mozzarella curds blended with heavy cream into rich and creamy cheese despite its origins of leftover scraps.
Italians love Stracciatella leftovers for Stracciatella soup and gelato.
It is common to find Stracciatella inside the Burrata cheese pouch. Making it is relatively simple: soak, stretch, cut, stir-in cream, and chill.
Stracciatella Italian cheese has a mild flavor that pairs with the classic Italian appetizer Bruschetta or fresh spaghetti bolognese.
And many home cooks love to use Stracciatella to compliment roasted vegetables with balsamic vinegar during spring and summer.