provolone valpadana

Provolone Valpadana is a semi-hard, 'pasta filata' (or spun-curd) cheese with a smooth rind. It is made from full-fat cows' milk and is naturally acidic thanks to the fermentation process used.
It can be sausage-shaped, round, conical or pear-shaped and may even have a round 'head' at the top. This cheese is quite unique and different to other spun-curd cheeses thanks firstly to its large size and secondly the fact that it can be aged for long periods without drying out too much and without turning into a cheese for grating.

There are two types of Provolone Valpadana:
-  Provolone Valpadana dolce (sweet), which has a mild flavour
-  Provolone Valpadana piccante (sharp), which has a much stronger flavour.

Area of production
Provolone Valpadana can only be made in the areas around Cremona, Brescia, Verona, Vicenza, Rovigo, Padua and Piacenza, as well as in a part of the area around Bergamo, Mantua, Lodi and Trento.

Provolone Valpadana is a great and healthy source of energy. It has just the right amount of calories, a good balance of fat to protein, a significant quantity of essential amino acids, zero sugar, vitamins PP, A B group and an incredible number of minerals, especially calcium and phosphorus.

Geniune Provolone Valpadana PDO, which has EU recognition, is easily recognised thanks to its green rosette symbol with a yellow centre.

Provolone Valpadana is best served at room temperature, not cold. How best to cut it depends on the shape: traditionally, sausage-shaped versions should be cut in slices of around one centimetre. These thick 'rounds' should then be placed on a wooden chopping board (possibly made from the wood of an olive tree) and then cut into 12 triangles. Pear-shaped Provolone Valpadana should be cut into wedges following the grooves made by the string. These slices should then be cut into triangles.

Average chemical composition of Provolone Valpadana PDO - both DOLCE and PICCANTE
Amount per 100g DOLCE PICCANTE
Energy Kcal 339,7 403,6
Energy kJ 1411 1675,3
Water (g) 42,7 36,8
Protein (g) 25,9 28,9
Carbohydrate (g) 0,9 0
Lipids (g) 26 32
Of which:    
Saturated 18 22
Monounsaturated 7 9
Polyunsaturated 1 1
Cholesterol (mg) 66 102
Total fibre (g) 0 0
Sodium (mg) 590 941
Potassium (mg) 115 115
Iron (mg) 0,5 1
Calcium (mg) 550 790
Phosphorus (mg) 400 575
Vit B1 thiamin (mg) 0,02 0,02
Vit B2 riboflavin (mg) 0,5 0,5
Niacin (mg) 0,3 0,3
Vit A (mcg) 175 175
Vit C (mg) 0 0
Vit E (mg) 0 0

This cheese is made from milk curd with added calf, kid goat and lamb rennet, either individually or together. The curds then go through a spinning process before being traditionally shaped. This is followed by the salting process and aging stage, the length of which depends on the size of the cheese.

100 kg of milk has a 10 % yield, which means 10 kg of cheese. If the cheese is aged for a long time, it can lose a further 1.5 kg. Therefore, the average yield is 8.5 kg of cheese per 100 kg of milk. By taking the average between both soft and mature cheeses, the Consorzio di Tutela has found the average yield to be 9.4 % per 100 kg milk.
Provolone Valpadana has the special trait of being 'double processed':
1) the milk is processed until it forms curds
2) these curds, after resting on high-sided tables for several hours to increase acidity, are then spun in hot water. This process is called 'filatura', as it turns the cheese into long strands.

The two varieties of Provolone Valpadana differ due to the type of rennet used to make them and the length of the ageing process:
  • Provolone Valpadana dolce (sweet) uses calf rennet and has a relatively short ageing period (from one to three months)
  • Provolone Valpadana piccante (sharp) uses kid goat and lamb rennet, either together or separately, and the ageing process lasts over three months (larger cheeses can even be aged for more than a year).
Both types of Provolone Valpadana also come in smoked varieties.
Provolone was first made during the second half of the 19th century and was the successful result of a mix of southern Italian stretched-curd cheese-making traditions and the dairies and cheese-makers of the Padana Valley in the north. The unification of Italy in 1861 made travelling up and down the peninsular much easier and many entrepreneurs from the south came to settle in the Padana valley, determined to bring their traditional 'pasta filata' cheeses to the rest of the country.

The Padana Valley produces large quantities of milk, which is perfect for cheese making, as well as offering the infrastructures necessary to guarantee a high-quality end product. The pioneers who brought 'pasta filata' cheese to the Padana valley were:
  • the Margiotta brothers, who moved to Borgo S.Giacomo, south of Brescia, in 1870;
  • Giovanni Carbonelli, who moved his whole family to Codogno, near Lodi;
  • Gennaro Auricchio, who came to live in Pieve S.Giacomo, near Cremona.
The numerous dairies and the quality of the milk in this area made it possible to set up some really large-scale operations.
The first documented evidence of the word 'Provolone' dates back to 1871 and the 'Vocabolario di agricoltura di Canevazzi-Mancini' (Cappelli).
Provolone, meaning large 'provola', had 'Valpadana' officially added as a name for the first time in 1993 (D.P.C.M. 09-04-1993), which was a crowning moment for this cheese after the hundreds of years of history and traditions which have made Provolone Valpadana the cheese it is today.  
What's the best way to sample Provolone Valpadana PDO?
The flavour, aroma and look of Provolone Valpadana PDO are best enjoyed fresh and uncooked.
It is delicious when paired with bread: the best type of bread to serve with Provolone Valpadana piccante (sharp) would be made from Altamura durum wheat, whereas the dolce (sweet) version is best served with sesame bread or classic pain rosette rolls.
Typical preserves from Cremona also provide the perfect accompaniment this ancient peasant cheese, as does honey and some jams – fig jam in particular.

Wine pairing
The best wine pairings depend on the type of Provolone Valpadana PDO:

Provolone Valpadana PDO dolce (sweet):
• Classically made spumante wines: from Franciacorta to Trento classico, Classese dell’Oltrepò Pavese, Alta Langa Piemontese and Erbaluce di Caluso spumante from Piedmont;
• Medium white wines such as Roero Arneis (Piedmont), Nosiola (Trentino), Tocai (Friulano), Frascati (Lazio), Vermentino (from either Sardinia or Liguria), Ortrugo (Colli Piacentini), Petit Arvine (Valle d’Aosta), Durello (Monti Lessini) or Grechetto (Umbria);
• Young medium red wines such as Dolcetto (Piedmont), Groppello (Garda), Teroldego Rotaliano (Trentino), Lagrein (Alto Adige), Lambrusco secco (Emilia Romagna), Rosso Piceno (Marche), Chianti Rufina or Colli Fiorentini (Tuscany), Castel del Monte, including rosé (Puglia), Etna rosso (Sicily), Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato (Piedmont), Gutturnio frizzante (Emilia Romagna), Lacrima di Morro d’Alba (Marche) or Cesanese (Lazio).

Provolone Valpadana PDO piccante (sharp):
• Classically made spumante wines from the areas mentioned above.
• Well-structured white wines, including those aged in wooden barrels, such as Gavi (Piedmont), Terre di Franciacorta bianco (Lombardy), Soave (Veneto), Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi (Marche), Vernaccia di San Gimignano (Tuscany), Fiano (Campania), Timorasso dei colli Tortonesi (Piedmont), Malvasia dei Colli Piacentini (Emilia Romagna) and Lugana superiore (Veneto);
• Well-structured red wines, such as Barbera d’Asti (Piedmont), Valtellina Sforzato (Lombardy), Pignolo (Friuli), Rosso Conero (Marche), Nobile di Montepulciano (Tuscany), Aglianico (Campania), Primitivo di Manduria or Negroamaro (Puglia), Cannonau (Sardinia), Gattinara (Piedmont) and Buttafuoco (Lombardy).

When serving Provolone Valpadana PDO piccante with honey or other sweet preserves, it's also possible to pair it with sweet wines made from dried grapes or late-harvested varieties, such as Piemonte Moscato passito, Moscato di Chambave (Valle d’Aosta), Albana (Romagna), as well as late-harvested Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi (Marche), Passito di Pantelleria, Malvasia delle Lipari (Sicily), Picolit (Friuli), Cinqueterre Sciacchetrà (Liguria), Sagrantino di Montefalco passito (Umbria) or Marsala Soleras.
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