Is Puglia Made of Cheese? Find out!

Puglia is home to hundreds of varieties of cheese. Thanks to its fertile and rich soil, to the variety of fragrant and wild herbs, the kiss of the sun, and the breezes from the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, Puglia is an agriculturally rich region and a cheese heaven. 
Farmers throughout the five provinces (Foggia, Bari, Brindisi, Lecce and Taranto) are proud of their cheese creations and craft many of which have become popular internationally. Here are a few:
Probably fair to say, this is the world’s most well known cheese of which Puglia is a main producer. A very versatile cheese that can be eaten fresh up to a couple of days or used in cooking upt to 4 days from its birth. In Puglia this cheese is often served on its own as antipasto or accompanied by veggies cooked in all sorts of ways and served with extra virgin olive oil and/or balsamic vinegar. It can be found in different shapes: nodini (small knots), ciliege (Cherries), trecce (braides) bocconcini (golf balls size), fior di latte (a baseball size that oozes milk when cut).
Looks like a big mozzarella but a bit more tender and as you cut through it with a knife creamy mill hooves out of it. Served with Apulian olive oil, fresh tomatoes, and arugula is a trip straight to heaven. 
Can be made with amy ship milk, but in Puglia the most popular is the one made with milk collected from sheeps grazing in the Muriga area (Bari). It is a shart type cheese both young and a bit more so aged. Paired with honey or even marmalades is the best way to bring out the contrast and its unique flavor.  
A very versatile type of cheese from a delicate flavor. It can be used in salty and sweet recipes. In Puglia the locals will only eat it if dailyfresh. It can be made from anytype of cheese and it will have its distinct flavor. 
This is a very unique and interesting cheese, first of all for its name, which combines the word for cheese with the word for horse, however caciocavallo has nothing to do with a horse. Part of  the milk used in the process does come however from buffalo and cows that pasture in fields full of a variety of herbs.  The cheese is made into the shape of pear and tied to a rope which will hold another pear shape on the other end. The cheese is then hung on a beam as if it were straddling a horse, hence the name Caciocavallo. It can be eaten at various stages of the aging process and smoked when it is a few days young. 
This is a cheese that is eaten soft or it can be aged to be used grated over the local orecchiette pasta. It is made with a blend of milk from cows, sheeps and goats. It combines really well with a glass of full-bodied Primitivo or Negroamaro. Not to confuse with ricotta, but it is in essence the same product only cooked and cured longer to be more solid and shaped into little wheels. When covered with rock salt it can be aged in a dry ventilated place in 3-4 weeks. 
Most likely this name reminds you of a gelato flavor (vanilla with chocolate pieces) but has nothing to do with it. In the world of cheese, Stracciatella is the creamy filling of a burrata. It looks like strings of mozzarella blended with cream. Kids love it on bread but it is also wonderful on pasta and pizza. It is best consumed daily fresh. 
Ricotta Forte
If you grew up in Puglia and your grandfather owned a farm, like mine, the pungent smell of this cheese is still imprinted in your head. I never liked it but each time I show visitors around Puglia and they get to taste Ricotta Forte, they seem to love it! This is a spreadable cheese with a strong flavor and pungent smell. It combines really well with a fresh tomato sauce and homemade pasta. 
When we can travel safely again, and you cannot wait to immerse yourself in the culture of Puglia and enjoy the many varieties of cheese it has to offer, let me know. I will be happy to customize your vacation or have you join one of my small trips. 
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