Entertaining

How To Build The Perfect Italian Cheese Board

Make sure your plate includes all four of these must-have cheeses.
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The art of the cheese board is no joking matter—especially for Italians. So we sat down with Obicà Mozzarella Bar's NYC Managing Partner, Raimondo Boggia, to discuss what really makes a cheese board great. Boggia surprised us with some brilliant tips (including what order to serve your cheeses!) in a three-step process that'll help you win over everyone at your next dinner party.

1. PICK THE RIGHT CHEESES.

Because Italy has 309 different DOP cheeses (Denomination of Origin Protected), there are so many possibilities when it comes to creating an Italian cheese plate. First, you want your cheese plate to be a representation of the 4 most important kinds of milk behind all excellent cheeses:

Cow's Milk
You should have at least one cow's milk cheese on your plate. There are many aged in different conditions (it is the maturation of the cow's milk that makes the varieties most interesting, whether it's matured under ash, grape leaves, etc.) Of course, the king of all cow's milk is Parmigiano-Reggiano, which undergoes a special maturation of up to 36 months. I suggest serving it in chunks as opposed to grating it (which can also make for a great appetizer).


Water Buffalo Milk
The most common type of water buffalo milk cheese is Mozzarella di Bufala, which has a firmer texture than cow's milk mozzarella and is tangy in flavor. The only way to get the freshest Mozzarella di Bufala is to make sure it's brought in from Italy, which we do twice a week at Obicà because the water buffalo in the United States is a different species and therefore produces a different milk. For a cheese plate, I would suggest including the Mozzarella di Bufala Classica, which is more savory and mild.

Sheep's Milk
The ultimate sheep's milk is pecorino (usually aged 1 month to 2 months, there are many different varieties with different grades of toughness including Romano, Fiore Sardo, Pecorino di Pienza etc). On its own, pecorino goes great with fava beans and salame felino.

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Goat's Milk
There are many different types of goat cheese, from fresh to aged (which are more pungent). You can finish your plate with a Tre Latti, or three milk cheese from Piemonte, a bite of Taleggio from Lombardia and soft or hard Gorgonzola, the blue cheese of Italy.

2. THE ORDER OF THE CHEESES MATTER (A LOT!)

Just as you wouldn't drink a strong red wine before enjoying a glass of white wine, you don't want your guests eating the cheeses in the wrong order that would compromise the taste of the cheeses. You want your plate to start from the lightest to the strongest flavors (the way a meal would start with a crisp white wine, a rose, a red and then a dessert wine).


3. YOU DON'T NEED AS MANY ACCOMPANIMENTS AS YOU THINK.

If you want to create a classic Italian cheese plate, do as the Italians do: simply add some very good bread (or in some cases, polenta), and that's it!

However, if you want to do it in a more contemporary way, you can add some marmalade (one that is not sweet—the best are made with some wine), dried fruits like apricots, nuts such as salted almonds, or in some cases fresh fruit, but only crisp apples or pears (pears and Parmigainno-Reggiano is a great pairing).


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Micaela English
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