Italian food is delicious. Whether your go to is a slice of New York style pizza, or a caprese salad, no italian meal would be complete without Italian cheese.


You probably know the basics: mozzarella, provolone,and parmigiano-reggiano being among the most commonly used in recipes found in any restaurant that specializes in Italian food like BottigliaHenderson Restaurant, but we’ve rounded up a list of our favorite less common, yet equally delicious and unique italian cheeses that you may not have tried.


1. Caciocavallo

Caciocavallo is a variety of stretched curd cheese made from cow or sheep’s milk. It features a nutty, smooth flavor and a soft texture. Caciocavallo is very similar in texture and flavor to provolone, but with a hard edible rind.


Caciocavallo originates from southern Italy near the Basilicata and Calabria regions, and was mentioned in writing as far back as 500 BC by scholars like Hippocrates.


The name of this cheese translates to “horseback cheese,” which is a play on the traditional method of aging in which these pear-shaped cheeses are tied together and hung over a wooden beam, much like the saddlebags of a horse.


2. Fontina

Fontina cheese is a semi-soft variety of cheese originating from the Aosta Valley region of northern Italy. This pungent smelling and intensely flavored cheese has an earthy, woody taste that pairs well with roasted meats and sweet dessert wines.


This delicious cheese dates back as early as the 12th century. It is made with unpasteurized milk from grassfed cows, and is traditionally available as a soft, fresh cheese or as a hard, aged variety.


Fontina cheese has a fat content of about 45%, melts incredibly well and is typically used for Fonduta alla valdostana, a whipped cheese dish containing eggs, milk, and truffles, and usually served with bread for dipping.


3. Pecorino

Pecorino cheese is a very hard, sharp tasting cheese produced from ewe’s milk. It gets its name from “pecora”, the Italian word for sheep. This cheese is produced mainly on the island of Sardinia, but is also produced in places like Tuscany and Lazio.


This cheese comes in several varieties based on the length of the aging processes, which were mentioned in writing by ancient roman scholars, such as Pliny the Elder as early as the first century AD.


This cheese is often served as an addition to savory pasta dishes such as Pasta alla Gricia, or after a meal along with pears, walnuts, and honey. Pecorino cheese is salty, and pairs well with sweet wines like Moscato and Lambrusco.

4. Caprino

Caprino cheese gets its name from “capra”, the italian word for goat. Made from goat’s milk, Caprino has a creamy texture and a tangy, salty flavor. Different varieties of aged Caprino are also available, with some types being aged for 40 days or longer.


This cheese is a standard in many italian dishes. It is sometimes seasoned with garlic, chives, or black pepper and comes in many different styles that vary by location. While its production is not contained to any one particular region like many Italian cheeses, Caprino originates from and is still widely produced in the Piedmont region of northeastern Italy.


Caprino is traditionally used as an ingredient in pasta dishes and mingles well with roasted tomato, garlic, and basil. This rich and creamy cheese also pairs incredibly well with a full bodied Cabernet Sauvignon.


5. Gorgonzola

Gorgonzola is a variety of veined Italian blue cheese, known for its strong aroma and salty flavor, as well as its notable blue-green hue. This cheese’s distinct color is due to the introduction of bacteria and Penicillium glaucum mold spores during the fermentation process.


While Gorgonzola shares its namesake with a town in the region of Milan, for which it is commonly thought to be named, other localities dispute the validity of this claim. However, one thing that is for certain is that this variety of cheese dates back as early as the 11th century AD.


It is most commonly used as an ingredient in risotto, and with short pasta such as penne and rigatoni. But never on spaghetti or linguine.


Bonus Trivia

Gorgonzola is mentioned in the 1922 novel “Ulysses” by author James Joyce, the protagonist of which, Leopold Bloom, lunches on “a glass of burgundy and a Gorgonzola sandwich”. It has been speculated that this mention is reference to Inferno, the first installment of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. The hero does battle with the gorgon, much the same as Bloom has an internal battle of digesting this pungent cheese.


Food for Thought

There are literally hundreds of varieties of italian cheese, and our list barely scratches the surface, but for anyone looking to become a true connoisseur of artisanal cheeses will find this list to be great starting point. Whether you prefer your cheese with fruit and crackers, or with good crusty bread and smoked meats like pancetta and prosciutto, there’s no doubt that Italy produces some of the finest cheese in the world.


What is your favorite cheese? Do you prefer it as a subtle addition to spaghetti bolognese, as a sandwich filling, or in some other inventive dish? Leave us a comment in the section below.