ASIAGO : From the region of Veneto, this hard cheese impregnated with small holes was originally made on the foothills of the Dolomite mountains. There are two types : Asiago d'Allievo is made from a combination of skimmed evening milk and fresh morning milk, then left to mature. It is piquant in flavor and suitable for grating. Asiago grasso di monte is a younger and therefore softer cheese and is more often eaten as a table cheese.
BEL PAESE : The name "Bel Paese" means "beautiful country". This popular cheese comes from the beautiful countryside of Lombardy. Bel Paese is fairly mild in flavor and soft and creamy in texture. It is most frequently used as a table cheese and provides an excellent contrast to the sharper Italian varieties. It is also good as a melting cheese, and for this reason is useful in cooking, particularly as a substitute for Mozzarella. It is made during the cool and cold months from cow milk in round and square shapes of about two pounds.  
  FONTINA : A semi-hard cheese from Val D'Aosta, Fontina takes its name from Mount Fontin near the town of Aosta. It is one of the most famous of all Italian cheeses, and many connoisseurs rank it amongst the top cheeses in the world for its sweet, nutty flavor and deliciously creamy texture. Although it is classed as a table cheese, it is most often found in the celebrated Piedmontese specialty Fonduta and other rich dishes.
GORGONZOLA : The blue-veined, yet mild, Gorgonzola is one of the most famous cheeses throughout the world. It takes its name from the town of the same name in Lombardy, where it was originally made in damp caves. These provide the right conditions for the mold to develop and mature naturally, a process that can take up to one year. Nowadays the cheese is made in factories where, with the help of the bacteria Penicillium Gorgonzola, the whole process usually takes as little as three months. Pricking and turning the cheese in a specially controlled atmosphere also helps to accelerate its aging process.  
  MASCARPONE : Mascarpone is a fresh cheese originally from Lombardy; now it is available all over Italy. It is made from fresh cream and sold in muslin bags as dessert cheese to be served with fruit and sugar. Occasionally it is flavored with liqueur.
MOZZARELLA : This cheese is traditionally made from buffalo's milk, but nowadays it is more frequently made from cow's milk or a mixture of both. In its native Campania, Mozzarella comes in many unusual shapes and it is frequently eaten fresh, when it is moist and dripping with whey. Unless it is completely fresh like this, it is only suitable for cooking, because it soon becomes dry and loses some of its flavor. It is commonly used as a topping for Neapolitan pizzas, but it can also be fried and baked.  
  PARMIGIANO : Parmigiano, or Parmesan , is the most famous of all the Grana cheeses which are produced in northern and central Italy. Grana is simply the collective term used by the Italians to describe matured hard (grainy) cheese, of which there are many different types. These cheeses are believed to have originated in Roman times. Other types of grana include Grana Lodigiano (from the area of Lodi in Lombardy) and Grana Padano. The area of origin of the Grana Padano stretches along the river Po Valley from Piedmont to Veneto touching the province of Trento in northeast and some area of Emilia-Romagma in the south. It involves 27 provinces in all. Only grana that is made around the town of Parma can actually be called Parmigiano Reggiano. Parmesan cheese takes at least two years to come to maturity, although the flavor of a good Parmesan will improve with age. Generally the longer the cheese has been maturated, the more expensive it is. Parmesan should always be bought in a piece to be freshly grated over sauces, pasta or rice or added to cooked dishes. Ready-grated Parmesan cheese cannot in any way compare in flavor with the freshly grated cheese.
PECORINO : This is a hard country cheese, often used instead of Parmesan cheese for gratin or cooking. Unlike Parmesan, pecorino is a quick maturing cheese; it is usually ready to eat within eight months. There are several varieties of pecorino, each with a slightly different flavor, texture and appearance.
Pecorino Romano is considered to be one of the best. Pecorino Sardo is made in Sardinia, where its manufacture has become a thriving industry for the island. The Sardinian Pecorino Pepato is speckled with black peppercorns. All make excellent grating and cooking cheeses, and are rarely eaten as table cheeses.
  PROVOLONE : Provolone must be one of the most famous of all Italian cheeses, although this is probably due as much to its shape as to its flavor. Provolone is still made into an oval shape into which the cord makes deep grooves, it is more often "kneaded" into fanciful shapes. There are two kind of provolone, both eaten as table cheeses : Provolone Dolce, which is young and mild, and Provolone Piccante, which is mature and strong.
RICOTTA : Ricotta is a soft white cheese with a crumbly texture made from the whey of ewe's or cow's milk. It is most frequently used in cooking, both in sweet and savory dishes. There are different types of ricotta, from fresh one through to salted, dried and well mature varieties. Ricotta is usually fairly easy to obtain outside Italy, at least in Italian specialty shops.  
  TALEGGIO : Taleggio cheese is named after a valley just outside Milan. It is an ancient cheese and perhaps the best of the Stracchino cheeses made in northern Italy in the regions of Lombardy and Piedmont. This cheese is little known outside Italy, since it is very quick to mature and therefore not suitable for export. It is a soft, creamy cheese and one that should be eaten as fresh as possible.
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