The World’s Best Cheese that isn’t French

One of the world’s great cheeses is creamy gold and, pound for pound, is worth more than many precious metals. Caciocavallo Podolico is produced not in France but Southern Italy, particularly in the Apennine Mountains. Shaped like a giant teardrop, it only comes from the free-ranging Podolico cows and cannot be produced industrially.

Roaming the mountain woods and forests, the cows subsist on a diet of upland grasses, nettles, blueberries, rosehips, hawthorn, cornelian cherries, juniper and wild strawberries – and these flavors infuse this marvellous cheese.

The flavor of this luxury food also varies according to locale and the type of rennet (curdled milk from an unweaned animal) used in production. Delicate varieties tend to rely on veal rennet, and brighter ones with more bite come from goat rennet.

The cows produce only a little of the protein-rich, aromatic milk needed to create Caciocavallo Podolico, in the months of May and June, and the processing is very labor intensive – hence the breathtaking price tag.

The Italian name of the cheese, caciocavallo, means “cheese on horseback.” Its origin probably comes from the fact that traditionally two cheeses were left to ripen, bound together with a rope and hung “a cavallo” over a branch or stick, their creamy paste yellowing more with aging and separating into layers, encased in a shiny rind.

One of the renown makers of Caciocavallo Podolico is Nicola Pessolani, who produces it using the traditional methods of stretching the curd and hanging the cheese up in caves to mature.

To try your Caciocavallo Podolico perhaps pair it with a Barbaresco wine. Or if you want to experience it in a pasta recipe, here’s one for Tortiglioni with Basil and Caciocavallo.

You would need:

• 3 cups loosely packed and torn fresh basil leaves
• 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
• 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 pound tortiglioni (narrower that rigatoni)
• 2 cups grated Caciocavallo cheese
• 2 1/2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
• Sea salt  

Mix basil, garlic and oil and let sit for 40 mins. Add salt to boiling water. Cook pasta al dente, putting aside a half-cup of cooking liquid. Add hot tortiglioni, cheese and reserved liquid to basil mixture, then toss and serve.

Or rather than cooking with Caciocavallo Podolico yourself, get your own private chef to create a dish for you at one of the great Italy luxury villas. It will taste even better.

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