The 25 Most Important Cheeses in America, According to Cheese Experts (Bon Appetit)

Photo courtesy of www.bonappetit.com

A celebration of American Cheese Month wouldn’t be complete without a discussion of the most important, iconic cheeses in America. But where do you draw the line? Who gets included and who is left out? Luckily for us, the good, informed people at Bon Appetit interviewed 7 cheeses experts (including our own SVP of Sales and Marketing, Elizabeth Chubbuck) to compile a list of the 25 Most Important Cheeses in America. The list includes everything from multi-award winners (such as Pleasant Ridge Reserve), to trailblazers (like Vermont Creamery Coupole). As an added bonus, you can buy more than half of the cheeses on the list from Murray’s!

True to the reality and ever-changing landscape of Cheesemaking in America, a few of the cheeses on the list are only available a few months out of the year, or are not even being produced anymore. Cheesemakers are always trying, testing, and perfecting the next big cheese, and some cheese,. even those that are considered classics, may fall by the wayside. The good news is, most of the cheeses on this list have been so important and popular that there’s plenty to go around, and will be for many years to come. Check out the list, and let us know what you think in the comments below!

https://www.bonappetit.com/gallery/most-important-cheeses-in-america

Red Sauce and Melted Mozz: Cheese and Italian Food in America

The metaphor of the United States as a cultural melting pot is probably best applied to our food. Immigrants from all over the world come here bringing their distinct foodways with them; they adapt their recipes to local tastes and the ingredients available, and eventually the cuisine becomes inextricably part of the American fabric. No better example of this is Italian food and Italian-American food; at the turn of the last century a wave of Southern Italian immigrants came to this country looking for a brighter future, maybe not even realizing that many of those futures would depend on the pasta, tomato sauce, pizza, and pastry recipes they brought along with them.

Once here, Italian immigrants realized that while they were able to find many ingredients they needed, there was no substitute for real Italian cheese: like Parmigiano Reggiano, the nutty, crumbly ‘King of cheese’ from Emilia-Romagna needed for Chicken and Veal Parmigiano, or Pecorino Romano, its bold and salty cousin from Lazio, needed to grate over pasta. The role of cheese in Italian food cannot be overstated; the Roman Legion marched on rations of Pecorino Romano, still made in the village of Nepi by Fulvi using the same recipe from nearly 2000 years ago.

Pecorino Romano

For many Italian immigrants to the United States meat was a luxury, and cheese eaten with some crusty ciabatta or grated over pasta provided both the flavors of home, and an important source of nutrition. Over time, other Americans discovered just how delicious this new ‘ethnic’ food was, and were therefor introduced to the world of Italian cheese.

In Italian-American cuisine, cheese is not only eaten as antipasti with olives and cured meats, but is also a key ingredient in so many of our most beloved dishes, mac and cheese being the most American of all. But make no mistake, that ‘mac’ stands for maccheroni!

Mac and Cheese at Murray’s Cheese Bar

And while cheddar cheeses are the most commonly used today, melting cheese like Fontina and young Asiago Pressato are probably what this dish was originally made with. Either way, don’t forget the grated Parmigiano Reggiano on top to get that perfect crust.

Italian-American dishes have become what we think of as comfort food; dishes that are simple and delicious, and are always crowd pleasers. Chicken Parmigiano might be the ultimate expression of how Italian immigrants adapted their traditional recipes to the American palate. Eggplant Parmigiana, or Mellenzana alla Parmigiana is what you will find in Italy, but Italian immigrants saw that other Americans preferred meat for their main meal and as Italian-Americans became able to afford meat regularly, the change to chicken was made here in the New World. Now chicken (or sometimes veal) is breaded, fried, covered in tangy tomato sauce, and smothered in a gooey layer of mozzarella. But the real flavor comes from the Parmigiano Reggiano liberally grated over top and often mixed in with the breading of the chicken. This dish can now be found on almost every Italian-American restaurant menu.

Photo courtesy of seriouseats.com

Italian-American food continues to evolve as well. A more recent addition to the landscape of Italian-American cuisine are variations on Cacio e Pepe, the classic Roman pasta made with Pecorino Romano and black pepper. Innovative chefs are using this flavor combination in new and delicious ways from roasted vegetables to garlic knots.

Click the photo to make this classic Cacio e Pepe for yourself!

Italian cheeses also enhance salads, making them a meal in and of themselves. With Autumn and an abundance of apples, plums, and pears fast approaching, there is no better cheese to have on hand than Gorgonzola Cremificato.

This softer, richer counterpart to Mountain Gorgonzola is at its best when joined with zesty arugula, toasted nuts, and ripe juicy pears. And of course it’s a key ingredient in a classic four cheese pizza. Gorgonzola Cremificato (also called Gorgonzola Dolce) is a wonderful cheese to offer your friends who don’t yet love blue cheese, because its creamy texture prevents too much blue mold growth and results in a more pronounced sweetness. With a drizzle of Italian Acacia Honey and some Vin Santo you’ve got the perfect end to an Italian-American meal.

Gorgonzola Cremificato

And if you think we could explore the world of Italian-American food without mentioning pizza at least three times, Gorgonzola Cremificato is also a key ingredient in Pizza Quartto Formaggi, that’s four cheese pizza (aka our kind of pizza).

Buon Appetitio!

Cheese Rinds and Salami Ends: What to Do With Antipasto Leftovers

Photo courtesy of epicurious.com

Italians do not let anything go to waste, especially when it comes to food. Things like Panzanella (a salad made with stale bread as its base), or Polenta (boiled cormeal that could be served in a variety of ways).  But what about foods that seem inedible? Things like bones and cheese rinds may not seem too appetizing, especially when most of us can go to the store and buy more of the meat that was on that bone, or the cheese that was in that rind. The world didn’t always have these conveniences, however, and the need to repurpose leftovers or use the entirety of a product has lead to some of the most delicious dishes in culinary history. Read on as we take a look at three major “waste” products you may find leftover after your next Italian feast, and tell you what to do with them!

Parmigiano Reggiano

Parmigiano Reggiano Rinds

Most people see the rind of a cheese much as they see the wrapper of a sandwich, something that is purely there to protect the “good stuff” and to be thrown out when it has served its purpose. Something like the rind of a wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano may sometimes fall victim to this idea. But something so delicious should be fully enjoyed right? And you paid for the rind, so you may as well use it.

This rind is naturally made and edible, but is a bit tough, and maybe not as flavorful as the cheese it protects. There are a couple of things you could do with these overlooked pieces, but our favorite is to add it to a simmering tomato sauce. One of the greatest things in this world is a red sauce (Gravy or Ragu based on the region) cooked low and slow for many hours on the stove. When you add a couple of pieces of parm rind to the heavenly mixture, you will find that it adds a bit of its natural saltiness and flavor that you would not get if you just added salt. The heat allows an aroma and flavor to be extracted from the rind to create a whole new experience.

Photo courtesy of www.norcinerie.it

Prosciutto Bones

Like the rinds on cheese, bones make up a part of your total purchase when you buy meat, and it may seem like another item you’ve wasted money on. Once again, it helps to look to the past to figure out what to do with it. When families in the rural parts of Italy would raise a pig, it had to last them for many months. They prepared it in a variety of ways, cured meats like prosciutto and coppa, and fresh meats like pork chops and tenderloin. Only so much of the animal is meat, so at the end, you are left with bones, such as a bone from a leg of prosciutto.

Like the rind on a parm wheel, the flavor of these sorts of bones are coaxed out through heat. Adding it to a pot of stewing minestrone soup, for instance, will add a bit of savory delight to an already incredible meal. Like the sauce, the hot stew will take on the flavors of the bone that would otherwise go undiscovered.

Columbus Cacciatore Salami

Salami Ends

At the end of a salami or sopressata chub is always a small amount of meat that you can no longer slice or just doesn’t get gobbled up. Don’t throw those pieces of flavor out! We like to chop these ends into small cubes, then add them to pastas, on top of pizzas, or throw them into another Italian favorite: Antipasto Salad. Spicy, meaty, colorful — this is a salad that equal parts satisfying and delicious, and takes up the Italian American food mantra that “More is Better”.

Murray’s Antipasti Salad

In a world which is more and more concerned about waste and stretching your dollar to its fullest, these methods may come in handy. Unlike the old days when many of these practices came from necessity, we have the opportunity to choose to do something delicious with these “less popular” items. These are just a few examples of what to do with these products, so feel free to use your imagination. The next time you get to the rind of a hunk of Parm or the end of a salami chub, think about those who came before you, and make them proud by adding these pieces to your next culinary masterpiece instead of the waste basket.

How to Build the Perfect Antipasto Plate

It’s September, which means we at Murray’s are celebrating Italian cheese month! Long time cheese connoisseurs and cheese newbies alike can agree that Italian cheeses, and their accompaniments, never disappoint. Whether you’re throwing an intimate event, or visiting your huge extended family – an Italian cheeseboard is a must, and a crowd pleaser for all. There’s nothing “cheesy” about serving up some classics, with some added extras to challenge those taste buds.

Murray’s Parmigiano Reggiano

You know Parmigiano Reggiano. You love Parmigiano Reggiano. You love its nutty flavor and salty, yet sweet finish. You love how consistent it is. You know it’s going to have an intense taste, that’s not too much or too little, due to its precise 24 month aging period. You love that it works well with anything, you would date it if you could. It is a perfect starting point on your Italian cheese board.

Murray’s Lightly Salted Mozzarella

Another Italian classic. Could you picture an Italian cheese array, without the accompaniment of the supreme, Mozzarella? I didn’t think so. That’s why it’s here. This cheese is made locally in upstate NY, bringing its fresh, high quality milk from happy cows, to you. Enjoy it’s thick, pillowy texture with other Italian must-haves, such as tomatoes, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and your favorite carb, from fresh bread to delicious crackers.

Murray’s Prosciutto di Parma

A perfect addition to many cheeses, but specifically, an Italian spread. Dating back to its origination in Parma, Italy, this delicious ham has been honored for decades. With a little salt, a bit of air, and a lot of time, 20 months to be exact, and this meat is ready to be enjoyed. Delight your taste buds with the combination of Prosciutto di Parma and any of the above cheeses for a flavor trip, taking you straight to European heaven.

Castelvetrano Olives

Not only do these Sicilian olives look beautiful, both plump and rich in color, they taste great too. The Castelvetrano olives have a meaty, buttery, and soft exterior with a mild salt flavor. These are great with any fatty pork product (like Prosciutto or Salami), and crucial to many a cheese plate- or alone. Even a committed olive-hater could get on board with these bites of paradise.

Rustic Bakery Rosemary & Olive Oil Flatbread

Crunchy, flavorful, and nutritious – these crackers are a home run in our book. Rustic Bakery is known to create savory, high-quality crackers that are intended to pair seamlessly with fine cheese. These crackers are baked by hand, right outside San Fransisco’s bay area, filled with organic grains and seeds, high in fiber and other nourishing ingredients. The olive oil and rosemary will compliment any Italian cheese, or meat, making it instrumental to this platter.

Extra Credit: Other Antipasti to Fill Out Your Board

Murray’s Pecorino Calabrese

Want another cheese to add to your board? We love this sheep’s milk cheese from Calabria. A little unexpected, a lot delicious. Bite into the wedge to unleash the robust, meaty flavor of the cheese, distinctly saline as it spreads across the palate. The cheese is highly snackable, and we like it especially well paired with the Castelvetrano Olives.

Creminelli Wild Boar Salami

As a child growing up in Italy, Cristiano Creminelli spent some time hunting wild boar. Today, thanks to Creminelli, it’s brought to you in a wonderful half boar, half pork salami. Typically, you may see a wonderful Sopressata or a Genoa Salami paired alongside theses Italian classics however, the wild boar adds a succulent texture and something a bit different to spice up your plate.

Décor: Olive Spread, Figs, and Greens, oh my!

And now, for the finishing touches. To truly “fill in the gaps” between our main events, it’s important to add in some other key elements of flavor. We like to add some Olive Bruschetta in a small bowl to our board.  Sweet, savory, and briny, this combo of olives, sweet peppers, capers, and more is a perfect match for some of the fattier elements of the antipasti board.

As for figs, if you have a fig tree in your backyard, we’re jealous, and you should use those fresh beauties. For those of us not as lucky, try the Spanish Pajarero Figs, which are slightly dried but still retain a most, juicy interior. These sweet, vitamin filled fruits are great with tangy cheeses, such as the Pecorino Calabrese, and would be a great addition to your cheese plate.

Lastly, greens. Between basil, parsley, oregano, thyme, any of these can be added to literally spice up, and fill up some more space on your beautiful cheese plate. Try some basil with your Mozzarella, some oregano with your Parmigiano Reggiano, maybe some parsley with your Parmigiano Reggiano. All of these will bring out natural flavors, and knock your plate, out of the park.

Murray’s Pasta 101: An Illustrated Guide to Pasta Shapes

Here at Murray’s, we have all shapes and sizes of pastas: dried, fresh, flat, round, long, short, green, black, pasta-colored, you name it! With so much variety, we had trouble keeping track, and with more kinds of pasta available than ever before, we decided to create an illustrated guide to many of our favorite shapes.

If you would to print out our guide, please click on the above image, which will pull up on a separate, printable version for printing. Otherwise, keep scrolling to see the individual shapes in more detail!

A few quick notes on reading the guide:

  • The “i” icon (leftmost) represents the translated root name, or origin name of the pasta shape
  • The Italy icon (center) represents which area of the country the shape of pasta originated in
  • The strainer icon (rightmost) suggests which sauces go best with the shape