There's cheese and then there's Italian cheese - There is a distinctive charm to many Italian cheeses, including the notorious hanging cheese Provolone.
Regardless of its starting shape – either a ball, a pear, or a long sausage – Provolone is often distinguished by its deep, sculpted depressions thanks to the rope from which it hangs.
Although months’ worth of gravity would shape any cheese, Provolone is particularly affected because, like mozzarella, it’s a pasta filata (stretched curd) cheese, giving it a malleable – but crumbly from aging – softness that lasts through the aging process.
Made from fresh, unskimmed cow’s milk, curds are immediately worked into their stretchy, springy consistency, before they’re hand formed into whatever shape the maker chooses. From there, the forms are salted and simply allowed to age without any further treatment.
Originally, Provolone was only made in ball form as it was the simplest method of production.
Nowadays this shape is ideal for wedging and grating, but it presents difficulty for slicing (the sandwich cheese wasn’t always so sandwich-friendly). In the early 1900’s, artisans invented the “salami” shape, which could be cut down into small, manageable blocks that wouldn’t roll around on a cutting board, and thus the two-shape dilemma was born.
While there is no one specific place of origin, many Roman writers circa the first century composed agricultural diaries about its production, ranging in location from Naples and the shore along Mount Vesuvius to the island of Sardinia, which became a major exporter of the cheese in the 16th century. The cheese-heavy Campania and Lombardy regions are the only places which lay claim to DOP protection of Provolone.
Provolone, like many other Italian cheeses, is versatile and well beloved in many native dishes.
Like Parmigiano-Reggiano, Provolone makes for a grate (mamma mia!) cheese on top of a pasta dish or slice of pizza. It’s also a favorite for antipasto; roll up a slice and pair with some prosciutto, olives, capicola, and some spicy soppressata.
It even goes with other cheeses too and that is why it is one of seventeen cheeses to choose from in Blend Bistro & Wine Bar's 2 cheese or 5 cheese platters - Why not try some Provolone soon at Blend Bistro!