There's a story (there's always a story) that a 15th century romance produced Gorgonzola. It involves a cow herder, who, distracted by his lover, added the morning's cheese curds to that of the previous day's curd, creating a cheese that remained soft and creamy even when aged. It's dubious, but the origins and history of Gorgonzola, a creamy blue cheese named after the place of its production, Gorgonzola, near Milan in northern Italy north. All that is agreed upon is that it's centuries old.
Once known as a “green stracchino” for its similar production method to the fresh and creamy cheese, gorgonzola is made with whole cow's milk from animals that hail from Piedmont or Lombardy. Penicillium mold is added (along with rennet), the curd is drained from the whey and the large wheels—weighing about 26 pounds each when ready—are formed. During the aging process, metal rods are poked through the cheese to create air channels for the cheese's characteristic blue mold to grow.
In general there are two main types of gorgonzola protected under the prestigious DOP status. There's gorgonzola dolce, a “sweet”, milder gorgonzola, with a pale grey mold, so creamy you can spread it. Gorgonzola piccante is a stronger blue, aged for about 80 days (which is roughly a month longer than the dolce), with a crumbly texture, more like a roquefort (no coincidence, as it is made with a combination of molds that include penicillium roqueforti, the same mold as the French cheese).
Gorgonzola is lovely as part of a cheese platter, simply spread onto bread, and makes for wonderful crostini which you can dress up with pear and walnuts for the easiest, impressive starter ever. But you'll find it's often used as an ingredient in other recipes in its native northern Italy.
It's delicious melted into risotto or polenta, into a sauce with pasta, and just as wonderful on pizza (it's an essential ingredient in the classic quattro formaggi, four cheese, pizza). It suits warming dishes, as gorgonzola was traditionally made with autumn milk, making it ready to eat in the cooler and pairing perfectly with ingredients found in the winter. Try it in risotto with wild mushrooms or with sweet juicy fruit like pears, apples, or persimmons. Married with nuts such as hazelnuts or walnuts, it's so good, it's almost a given. Try gorgonzola piccante crumbled with orange pieces in a salad with radicchio. Or in a pie with pears and walnut (a recurring theme for good reason).
At home, I like to top focaccia with gorgonzola for a delicious, golden, melted cheesy crust (pear and walnuts optional).
- 1/4 ounce (7 grams) dried yeast or 3/4 ounce (20 grams) fresh yeast
- 1 cup (250 ml) lukewarm water
- 4 cups (500 grams or 1 lb. 2 oz) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup (90 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons (40 grams) lard or butter, softened
- 7 ounces (200 grams) gorgonzola
- 1/4 cup (30 grams or 1 ounce) chopped walnut pieces, optional
Have a favorite way to eat gorgonzola? Tell us in the comments.