The Italian food tradition is based on several products, among which cheeses are a reference point, because they are consumed and appreciated not only in Italy but worldwide.
Each cheese carries within it not only a peculiar flavor but also the history of a land and the traditions of a people: production techniques that are handed down from one generation to the next. Discovery with us the 5 most famous and appreciated Italian cheeses all over the world!
The statistics speak for themselves: indeed, according to Coldiretti, the exports of Italian cheeses has exceeded 400 million kilos in 2017, an all-time record and a continuous growth-trend which confirm that Italy is one the biggest producers and exporters of this gastronomic specialty, but most of all it makes it clear how much Italian cheeses are appreciated even in countries with food cultures different from our own. Almost a quarter of all exported Italian cheeses ends up in France (23%), followed by Germany (14%) and United Kingdom (10%).
Outside Europe, the United States is an important export market for our country (9% of total exports), in spite of a protectionist policy and the presence on the market of many imitations (e.g. the notorious parmesan which, apart from the similar name, has nothing to with our Parmigiano Reggiano). Only 2% of the total is exported to Japan, and only 1% to China, but it has to be said that it’s still a growing trend and there is every reason to believe that those markets will become significant in the very next years.
Let’s now see the 5 most famous and appreciated Italian cheeses outside Italy:
Grana Padano is a semi-hard Italian cheese with a short maturing period, often comparable to Parmigiano Reggiano. GranaPadano has received a protected designation of origin in 1996 and is produced from cow milk in the Po valley.
The name derives from the union of the two words grana (a reference to the typically granular texture) and Padano, which refers to that geographical area in Northern Italy.
Grana Padano was one of the first hard cheeses ever produced in the world, invented almost 900 years ago by the Cistercian monks in the Abbey of Chiaravalle, which was founded in 1135 near Milan. In 1477 this product was already one of the most popular cheeses of Italy.
Turning to the present day, in 2017 Grana Padano reached a new record: about 5 million wheels of cheese (4.942.054 to be precise) were produced. Compared to the previous year, that’s 2,4% more. About 1800000 of those wheels are destined to foreign markets.
Parmigiano Reggiano is a grainy, semi-hard Italian cheese. It’s named after the place where it’s produced, an area which comprises the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Bologna, Modena (all in Emilia-Romagna), and Mantova (in Lombardy, but only on the southern side of the river Po). According to Italian law, only the cheese produced in those provinces can be labeled as “Parmigiano-Reggiano”, and the European legislation assigned to this product a protected designation of origin.
Italy represents 62% of the market of Parmigiano Reggiano. The main export countries are France (9.800 tons in 2017), Germany (9.460 tons), United States (9.075 tons), United Kingdom (6.163 tons), and Canada (2.380 tons).
The name “Mozzarella” derives from the dialect of Naples and refers to the form of the product. It is a diminutive of mozza (cut) and mozzare (cutting), which is part of the processing method. The term was mentioned first in 1570 by Bartolomeo Scappi in a cookbook, where he said “milk, cream, fresh butter, ricotta cheese, fresh mozzarella and milk”. In the Metropolitan Church of Capua, the historian Monsignor Alicandri, , states that in the 11th century the monastery of San Lorenzo offered the pilgrims a piece of bread with mozzarella or “proofing”.
Around 100.000 tons of mozzarella were exported just in 2017, which is 10% more than in the previous year. The main export markets of this product, which is one of the 5 most famous and appreciated Italian cheeses, are the United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, Belgium, and Germany.
Pecorino Romano is a hard and salty Italian cheese that is often used grated. It is made with sheep’s milk (hence its name, which refers to the Italian word for sheep, “Pecora”). In ancient Rome, pecorino romano was the staple food for the legionaries.
Nowadays pecorino is still made following the original recipe: most of its production happens in Sardinia. On the 1st of May, it is a tradition for Roman families to eat pecorino with fresh fava beans during a walk in the countryside.
In 2017 about 22.000 tons of pecorino were exported, almost 23% more than in the previous year. The main foreign export markets are the States, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.
Gorgonzola cheese is characterized by its typical greenish-blue veining and is produced with cow’s milk. It can be buttery, firm, or friable and it is rather salty. Some versions of it require the addition of mascarpone or cream.
Gorgonzola cheese is the namesake of the town located near Milan where it’s been produced for centuries. The greenish-blue veining appeared in the 11th century. Today it is mainly produced in the northern regions of Italy and in particular in Piedmont and Lombardy. Whole cow’s milk is used in the production, to which special bacteria are added to start the transformation process, along with spores of the mold Penicillium glaucum.
In 2017 about 20 thousand tons of gorgonzola were exported, which is a more or less stable result compared to the previous year. The main export markets are: Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Switzerland.
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