Taleggio is a washed rind semi-soft cow’s milk cheese that is thought to have originated in the Val Taleggio in the Upper Bergamo of Lombardy during the tenth and eleventh centuries. Made with raw or pasteurized milk, now it is produced throughout Lombardy and in some provinces of Piedmont and the Veneto and has been given the D.O.P. certification, Denominazione d’ Origine Protetta or Protected Designation of Origin by the Italian government. The most highly prized Taleggio are aged in the natural grottos of the Valsassina in the province of Como. Estimates are approximately one-third of this cheese production is aged there. What makes these grottos special are the deep fractures in the rocks which provide a mesoclimate (a small area over a hillside or valley) that is ideal for the growth of molds flavoring this cheese.
Taleggio is aged for 25 to 40 days at a controlled temperature of 34 to 48° F/3 to 8° C and high humidity of 85 to 90%. During maturation, each square of cheese is sponged with brine to prevent unwanted molds from forming. This daily washing of the rind produces its characteristic orange-pink color and intensifies its aroma and taste. It is mild and buttery in flavor, but with increased maturation, it develops an assertive aroma and tang typical of washed rind cheeses.
With wonderful “meltability”, Taleggio is ideal for crostini such as grilled cheese-and-tomato, ham-and-cheese, or grilled vegetables topped with cheese. It is an easy way to make a great-tasting sandwich that can be served as a quick meal, or cut into bite-size pieces for children’s snacks, or warm antipasto. Try it as a topping for pizza or the cosseting macaroni-and-cheese casserole. For dessert, pair Taleggio with ripe pears or apples, or drizzle with honey, and serve along side toasted bread.