Fresh mozzarella is a delicate, soft cheese with high moisture content. It comes in balls and packed in water or whey. (There is another mozzarella that’s hard and rubbery, but it comes from a factory. A sad topic.) Anyway, the kind we use has a buttery texture and light taste that make it a perfect companion for our pasta. It’s wonderful served right from the fridge, sliced to accompany a crusty bread and antipasti plate, or topping a salad with fresh tomatoes. This cow’s milk cheese will have you asking for moo-re.
Remember to roll your tongue when you say “Romano!” This is an ancient cheese, first created in the countryside around Rome over 2000 years ago. It was a favorite snack of Roman soldiers! Romano has a hearty, salty flavor that complements robust Italian fare, adding a distinctive note to sauces. Its sharpness increases with age, which is at least 5 months. While the texture allows for shaving, making it a great choice for sandwiches or salads, it’s especially suited to grating. Authentic Pecorino Romano, which is used in Parla products, is only from Italy and must be made from sheep’s milk, which is bolder than domestic Romano made from cow’s milk.
This straw colored “King of Cheeses” is a staple of Italian cooking. It is a hard, granular—“grana”— cheese that is wonderful to grate, crumble or shave. Aging is a requirement for quality Parmesan. The wonderful gritty-grainy texture in this cheese comes from things called cheese crystals, which are naturally-occuring and a valued characteristic of higher quality, aged cheeses. Parmesan imparts a satisfying umami flavor, making salads, soups, risottos, as well as pastas, more savory.
WHOLE MILK IMPASTATA
There’s nothing quite like creamy, delicate ricotta cheese. And when you’re wanting authentic Italian, it must be whole milk ricotta “Impastata.” This is truly one of those “differences you can taste” and once you do, you’ll have elevated your cheese credentials for sure. Though other cheeses could be used, ricotta is that wonderful fluffy white stuff layered into our lasagna. The softness is a perfect contrast to the firmness of the hand-chopped vegetables and meatiness of the, well, meat.
This is another cheese named after its place of origin, Asiago, in the Veneto region of northen Italy. Asiago’s designated and protected production region, or DOP, ranges from the meadows of the Po Valley upward to the Trentino Highlands. The cheese can range in texture from smooth when fresh (“pressato”) to crumbly for aged (“d’allevo”). The aged variety is perfect to grate over salads, into soups and, oh yes, atop a nice plate of Parla pasta! You can also thinly slice or shave Asiago for paninis or other sandwiches. It’s also a great partner to proscuitto and fruits, so consider it for your carcuterie platter or antipasto—“before the meal” in Italian.