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Italian cheese words

reading the labels

Although they don't boast as much as the French, the Italians make over 400 cheeses.

What kind of cheese is it?

  • a latte misto: mixed milk
  • bufalino: buffalo milk
  • caprino: goat milk
  • pecorino: sheep milk
  • vaccino: cow milk

How old is it?

  • freschi (fresh cheeses), to be consumed within few days of production
  • a maturazione breve, to be consumed within a month
  • a maturazione media, to be consumed between 1 and 6 months of production
  • a maturazione lenta, can be preserved for more than 6 months
  • stagionato, a general term for aged cheese Some cheeses, such as Grana Padano, can be kept for far longer; a cheese over 20 months old becomes a Riserva. Vecchio and Stravecchio (extra old) are also used for cheeses such as Asiago.

How is it made?

  • a crosta fiorita ('flowery' rind), where white mold forms on the crust (typical of the soft cheeses)
  • a crosta lavata ('washed' crust), where the crust is periodically washed with brine (or wine or spirits, if it's ubriaco)
  • a pasta cotta ('cooked'), where curd is cooked between 48 and 56 °C
  • a pasta cruda (raw), where curd is not cooked
  • a pasta filata ('stretched or pulled curd'), where the curds matures in hot whey, then kneaded, pulled and stretched by hand (mozzarella and fior di latte)
  • a pasta pressata ('pressed curd'), where cheese forms are pressed to let the whey flow out before the crust is formed
  • a pasta semi-cotta ('semi-cooked curd'), where curd is cooked at less than 48 °C
  • erborinati (blue cheeses), where blue or green veins may develop

How hard is it?

  • a pasta dura (hard), containing less than 40 % water
  • a pasta semidura (semi-hard), containing between 40 % and 45 % water
  • a pasta molle (soft), containing between 45 % and 60 % water

What's the fat content?

  • grassi (fat), over 42 % fat (whole milk)
  • semigrassi (semi-fat), between 20 % and 42 % fat (partially skimmed milk)
  • magri (low fat), less than 20 %

Cheeses & Dairy Products


Text © Dana Facaros & Michael Pauls

Image by Graeme Maclean