Gorgonzola Piccante, a formidable cow’s milk blue cheese from the region north of Milan, is Italy’s answer to Roquefort. Its rough, reddish rind protects a tender, light yellow, blue-flecked paste that is firm, moist, and buttery. The flavour is sharp and sweet. Pair Gorgonzola Piccante with a sweet Italian dessert wine. Piccante therefore indicates a more aged product.
Gorgonzola has been produced for centuries in Gorgonzola, Milan, acquiring its greenish-blue marbling in the 11th century. However, the town’s claim of geographical origin is disputed by other localities. Today, it is mainly produced in the northern Italian regions of Piedmont and Lombardy. Whole cow’s milk is used, to which starter bacteria are added with spores of the mould Penicillium glaucum. The whey is then removed during curdling, and the result aged at low temperatures.
During the ageing process, metal rods are quickly inserted and removed, creating air channels that allow the mould spores to grow into hyphae and cause the cheese’s characteristic veining. Gorgonzola is typically aged for three to four months. The length of the ageing process determines the consistency of the cheese, which gets firmer as it ripens. There are two varieties of Gorgonzola, which differ mainly in their age: the less aged Gorgonzola Dolce (also called Sweet Gorgonzola) and the more aged Gorgonzola Piccante (also called Gorgonzola Naturale, Gorgonzola Montagna, or Mountain Gorgonzola). Under EU law, Gorgonzola enjoys Protected Geographical Status. Termed DOP in Italy, this means that it can only be produced in the provinces of Novara, Bergamo, Brescia, Como, Cremona, Cuneo, Lecco, Lodi, Milan, Pavia, Varese, Verbano-Cusio-Ossola and Vercelli, as well as a number of comuni in the area of Casale Monferrato.
Gorgonzola may be eaten in many ways, as all blue cheeses. It is often added to salads, either straight or as part of a blue cheese dressing. Combined with other soft cheeses it is an ingredient of pizza ai quattro formaggi (four-cheese pizza). It is often used as a topping for steak, sometimes in the form of a sauce with Port or other sweet wine. It may be melted into a risotto in the final stage of cooking, or served alongside polenta.