Provolone - Gourmet Guide

June 12, 2019 | By Dave Mattingly

Provolone is a semi-hard Italian cow's milk cheese that has a smooth texture and a mild smoky flavor. Provolone Cheese is made in two distinct varieties: Provolone Dolce and Provolone Piccante. Provolone Dolce is made using calf's rennet, aged approximately two to three months, and has a mild creamy and milky flavor. Provolone Piccante is usually made from goat's or lamb's rennet, is usually aged from three months to a year, and is drier, sharper and more pungent than Provolone Dolce. Both Provolone Dolce and Provolone Piccante may be smoked which creates a mild smoky aroma and taste.

Provolone Cheese first appeared in the late 1800s in the Lombardy and Veneto regions of the Po River Valley of Italy. The name Provolone is derived from the Neapolitan words "prova" and "provola" which mean "globe shaped". Provolone Cheese is a member of the pasta filata (spun paste) family of cheeses. Like Mozzarella, Provolone is a pasta filata cheese, a production style where the curd is kneaded and stretched while still hot. Provolone Cheese is bathed in brine before applying its wax or plastic rind, tying with rope and hanging in the aging cellar. Provolone Cheese can be formed into many different shapes such as pears, cones, tubes or torpedoes. Some producers even mold Provolone into fanciful shapes such as animals or figurines. As the cheese ages, its yellow color deepens and it develops an oily golden rind. While Provolone Dolce averages 11 pounds in weight, a single form of Provolone Piccante can weigh up to 200 pounds!

Today, many countries throughout the world make Provolone Cheese, such as the US and Japan, but authentic Provolone remains a product of Italy, particularly the northern regions of the country. Provolone Val Padana and Provolone del Monaco have received the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) label from the European Union which regulates production of these cheeses ensuring they are produced in certain regions of Italy using specific ingredients and methods of production.

Provolone is best known as a sandwich cheese or table cheese. Mild Provolone Dolce is a great addition to a cheese tray, or when used in cooking, toasted in sandwiches, or as an after dinner cheese. Provolone Piccante is sharp and buttery and perfect for antipasto. Provolone Piccante is wonderful when eaten as a dessert cheese or grated over pasta, pizza, soups or salads. Provolone Cheese is excellent when melted onto burgers, or stuffed and baked into shells or lasagna. The supermarket or deli versions of Provolone are poor imitations of our authentic Italian Provolones cheeses. Try authentic Italian Provolone and you will taste the difference!

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