Making the Perfect Italian Cheese Plate

An Italian cheese importer to many of Manhattan's top restaurants shares her tips.

This article, written by Summer Smith, appears on Men’s Journal.

How to Make The Perfect Italian Cheese Plate

Americans are fond of melting cheese over many a red-sauced dish; we love Mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano, Ricotta and Provolone, for all their gooey magic. But to impress a dinner guest with a phenomenal and truly original Italian cheese plate, we look to Tina Marcelli, who along with her father and brother at Marcelli Formaggi, is bringing far more exotic Italian cheeses stateside. The Marcellis import their family’s rare cheeses into the US, and chefs at highly acclaimed Manhattan restaurants have clamoured for it. The kitchens at Marta and Del Posto, among others, have invented some delicious ways to serve it, from cheese plate “flights” to melting over everything from duck to ice cream.

Her own education started In 2005, when she and her family made a pilgrimage to their ancestral home in Anversa degli Abruzzi, which dates back to the 1500s, and is still an operating sheep farm. They discovered a wealth of rare, artisanal cheese still being made by age-old practices, where the sheep graze in the meadows of Gran Sasso mountain range, eating wild mint, rosemary, oregano, fennel, and juniper, which gives their cheese its unique flavors.

Variety is the key to any cheese plate. “Keep it simple, and think two things: breeds and age.

More cheese is always better
Variety is the key to any cheese plate. “Keep it simple, and think two things: breeds and age. Different breeds equal hugely different flavors and textures so try to select a cow’s milk cheese, as well as a sheep’s milk cheese and goat,” says Marcelli, “Now think age – grab some fresh cheese such as Mozzarella or a young Ricotta, as well as other more-aged and firmer cheeses such as Pecorinos or Caciocavallos.”

Pay attention to the temperature
Marcelli recommends serving your selections slightly above room temperature, which allows the cheese to retain its intended texture and deliver its full taste. Cheese that is too cold can become brittle and the flavor is dulled; at warmer than room temp, cheese can become runny and too soft. Read more at Men’s Journal.

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