formaggio di fossa

pit cheese

Cheese aged in a hay-lined pit

Often called just fossa, this is one of Italy's more unusual and 'extreme' cheeses, made of sheep's milk.

After 30 days of normal ageing, the cheeses are placed in cloth bags and lowered into pits dug in the tufa, dating from the Middle Ages (the custom is said to have originated from the locals' need to hide their cheese from the numerous marauding armies that passed through). The pits, lined with fresh hay, are about 10ft deep and have a constant temperature of 21C (70F) and the humidity of 90%. On 26 November, St Catherine's day, the cheeses are traditionally removed from the pits.

Irregular in shape, it has a strong aroma, reminiscent of the forest floor, and hints of truffle and mildew. It's often served in soups such as passatelli, or grated over pasta, or eaten in a piadina.

Formaggio di Fossa di Sogliano, made in Sogliano al Rubicone, is DOP. In early December, the village holds a Fiera del Forgaggio di Fossa.

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