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Authentic Southern Italian Cuisine
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Carlino’s Italian Cheeses: A Taste of History

August 11, 2012 Carlino's Restaurant no comments

Some of most famous dishes served at Carlino’s Restaurant on Long Island relies on the rich heritage of cheeses that food lovers have enjoyed for hundreds of years. Italian chefs had to be creative with dairy products in the warm Mediterranean climate, so they developed and perfected the art of cheese-making. From the mildest mozzarella to the sharpest Parmigiano Reggiano, Italy’s cheeses are justly famous worldwide.

Carlino’s Soft Cheeses

“Homemade mozzarella is a gourmet delight”

Mozzarella is Italy’s most common cheese thanks to its partner, the pizza. Soft and mellow with just a little saltiness, mozzarella originally came from water buffalo, not cows. When cheese-makers stretch the fresh cheese and press the water out of it, it forms strands, giving the cheese its other popular nickname: string cheese. You’ll find it shredded atop pizzas to impart a luscious creaminess or as part of an insalata Caprese with tomatoes and fresh basil. Unlike most cheeses, mozzarella doesn’t have to age; a pizza with fresh, homemade mozzarella is a gourmet delight.

Mascarpone cheese is so soft that it spreads like butter. It’s the mildest of Italian cheeses and has a gentle creaminess that makes it a perfect partner for sweet or savory dishes. Like other cream cheeses, mascarpone takes on the flavors of other ingredients readily, so it’s often the base for dips and fillings where it enhances the character of other ingredients with bolder tastes. Tiramisu wouldn’t be the same without it.

Ricotta, like mascarpone, has a light flavor and texture that makes it a component of sweet and savory dishes. Unlike its counterpart, ricotta cheese is naturally light in calories, too. Cheese-makers create ricotta from low-fat whey instead of whole milk, so it contains little fat compared to other cheeses. Ricotta soaks up other flavors well, so you’ll often find it paired with potent ingredients like a tangy tomato sauce in layers of lasagna or with cinnamon in crisp cannoli. It’s also excellent on a pizza where it complements robust toppings like sausage and onions.

Carlino’s Semi-Soft Cheeses

"Green-veined Gorgonzola is Italy's contribution to the world"

“Blue-green veined Gorgonzola is Italy’s contribution to the world”

Every great cuisine has a notable blue cheese, and pale, blue-green veined Gorgonzola is Italy’s contribution to the world. Gorgonzola’s powerful, tangy taste makes it a perfect foil for dressings, dips and sauces where just a few crumbles of the cheese can add big flavor. You’ll also spot it on cheese plates where it goes well with walnuts and pears or on antipasto platters where it adds piquancy to pickled vegetables.

Provolone is to mozzarella what brandy is to wine – a distillation and concentration of an already delicious product. Cheese-makers press and age mozzarella, sometimes smoking it for extra flavor, to transform it into provolone. Sandwiches become special when dressed with a few slices of melted provolone to give them a rich, creamy texture and flavor. It’s also delicious in salads where its smooth texture contributes almost as much as its mellow taste.

Carlino’s Hard Cheeses

"Pecorino Romano is Italian for “little Roman sheep" where this ultra-sharp cheese comes from"

“Pecorino Romano is Italian for “little Roman sheep” where this ultra-sharp cheese comes from”

Parmesan and Parmigiano-Reggiano are close to the same, but not quite. The former term is the English name for a hard Italian cheese with a powerfully salty, nutty, almost peppery flavor; the latter refers to Parmesan cheese made according to centuries-old traditions in the Parma region of Italy. Just as champagne is more than sparkling wine, Parmigiano-Reggiano is more than Parmesan cheese. Both are exquisitely sharp and hard enough to grate over pizza or pasta, but Parmigiano-Reggiano is good enough to eat in thin shards all by itself. It’s a mainstay of Caesar salads as well as an essential topping for tomato sauces.

Pecorino Romano is Italian for “little Roman sheep,” and that’s just where this ultra-sharp cheese comes from. Often used with grated Parmesan, Pecorino Romano – sometimes shortened to Romano – is a traditional topping for anything with a savory tomato sauce.


Carlo, Wali and all your friends at Carlino’s Restaurant of Mineola

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