Who loves great meals with friends? Cheese, wine and conversation? I feel like the older I get the more I crave this than chocolate and dancing!
Before my children arrived I would head out into London with my girl friends for dinner and the highlight of our meal was always the cheeseboard and wine!
Now I'm married to an Italian, cheese indulgence has taken on a new meaning! There are so many incredible varieties to try but where do you start and what can you pair them with?
I recently discovered a wonderful site called 'Vorrei'.
Vorrei in Italian means 'I would like'. It's quite appropriate as you will want to eat pretty much everything you find there!
Vorrei is owned by the Pagliaro family. A bit like us, they are a family with an Italian husband, an English wife and two children. They've lived in Rome for many years and now are back in the UK. They are bringing their knowledge of real Italian food and their supplies of it, with them!
These are little round discs of cheese which have a thin edible rind. They are often found in mountain areas and these are made in Piedmont.
This particular variety are vegetarian and are made using a vegetable rennet found in a type of thistle flower.
They can be eaten as they are but taste wonderful cooked. You can bake them in the oven with garlic and rosemary. Grill/dry fry for a few minutes on each side on even put them on the BBQ!
There are a few different types of Gorgonzola. You may have seen these in the supermarket and found it a bit confusing or even off-putting!
Gorgonzola Dolce means sweet. Gorgonzola Piccante is spicy. In Italy you can also find Gorgonzola Cremoso which is lighter and very creamy.
I prefer the Gorgonzola Dolce. I really don't like blue cheese, but I love this one! If you're like me, try it as I've mention below and I think you will be surprised!
Firstly have a taste with crushed walnuts and a drizzle honey. Add big pieces of chunky fresh bread and you have a perfect picnic or relaxed lunch idea with friends.
Secondly, cook with it!
Gorgonzola mixed with a bit of cream or if you're trying to be healthy half-fat creme fraiche! Add in a little nutmeg and you have the most incredible pasta sauce.
Serve with Tagliatelle for the best results! This literally takes 5 mins to make as you're just waiting for the cheese to melt and combine with the cream. It's a really impressive dish when you have people to dinner and takes no effort!
This light tangy cheese is made by the Fiandino family who have been mountain shephards since 1700s.
They use the thistle flower to make the cheese which is very similar in taste to parmesan but lactose free.
I love that you get the slightly grainy texture of parmesan but that it's not as strong.
I would recommend eating this as part of a summery cheese board with a glass of wine and some antipasti. It's very addictive!
This is probably one Italian cheese which we are all more familiar with. I don't think we really realise its importance other than to grate it on our pasta though! (Tip: Never on fish pasta..).
So why is Parmesan so special?
This particular Parmesan comes from a rare breed of cow called 'Bruna Alpina'. These are lovely Swiss brown cows which produce a sweeter milk, with a high protein content. The cheese ages for 31 months and crumbles in your mouth. The taste is a mixture of toffee, butter and a slight saltiness.
We don't really think of eating Parmesan in pieces in the UK. We usually grate it. However my first proper taste of Parmesan was in its home City of Parma!
I was given an incredible salad, yes salad! With peppery rocket, toasted pine nuts, chunks of Parmesan and honey. So simple and yet so delicious.
One of my Husband's favourite memories is that for his 21st birthday, his friends bought him a whole round of Parmesan! Can you imagine a British boy being pleased with a large piece of cheese as a birthday present!
Perhaps this helps explain what a well loved and exceptional quality this cheese is. And that maybe we should savour it a bit more.
How to create your own Italian cheese board
If you would like to try some of the products above, visit Vorrei. They have a wide selection of cheeses, hampers and accompaniments. As well as many other authentic Italian products from artisan producers.
They also have an excellent blog if you're an Italian foodie!
Have you seen a cheese you'd like to try?
Which cheeses do you love or hate?!
**Vorrei gifted us some products to try, however all opinions are 100% my own.**