Art and commerce have always gone hand in hand in Lombardy, from Milan’s glamorous and lucrative fashion runways to the bucolic but prosperous farms of the Po plain. It’s no wonder, then, that this is the home of a lush, heavy blue cheese that somehow blends with modern culinary tastes.
After more than a thousand years, Gorgonzola remains popular, because it’s perfect. An intense, creamy cheese with magical blue veins, it stands with Roquefort and Stilton as part of the holy trinity of blue cheeses.
Gorgonzola comes in two varieties: the standard, young dolce (sweet) and a slightly more aged, sharper style that’s usually called piccante, but also stagionato or naturale.
Normally, I prefer the added complexity of an aged cheese. Not so in this case. The older piccante is firmer with a slightly more assertive aroma and taste than the young one. Although it’s wonderful, but I think it pales versus Stilton and Roquefort. The dolce, on the other hand, is smooth and luscious and has no rival anywhere.
Zola, as the Milanese call it, is a staple of northern cooking. It makes a wonderful, but quite filling, risotto, and also melts into a versatile cheese sauce. With sage and garlic, it’s a traditional northern topping for pasta noodles.
PAIRINGS: On its own, pair it with salty olives, or in a salad composed of bitter radicchio and walnuts. Conversely, spreading it on pears is as swell as a sweet treat gets. Big red wines make a natural partner, particularly Barolo from the nearby Piedmont.