For the love of cheese, whether it be hosting the perfect dinner party or just a quiet night at home, a tasty platter of Tuscan cheeses can be the highlight of any table, and we will tell you how to do it best. One thing to keep in mind, is to keep it seasonal. Since it is harvest season in Italy, using the bounty that nature has already provided, makes your job much easier.
Picking The Cheese
The most important part (naturally) is picking the cheese! Our recommendation is to pick a few high quality ones, rather than go for what is cheapest. In Tuscany, we are lucky to have a pretty amazing variety when it comes to options, go for a beautiful Pecorino Toscano DOP (sheep cheese – a mainstay of local cuisine) that is semi-aged. Next up is ricotta, typically a more mild option, go for a high-quality-straight-from-the-farm sheep milk ricotta and distribute in small cups to then top with honey or a sweet-spicy mostarda. Also we highly recommend some slices of Parmigiano Reggiano, which is always a welcome addition. Lastly gorgonzola, a veined Italian blue cheese, made from unskimmed cow’s milk should be present, cut in little cubes. While it is quite strong and not for everyone, it typically is a crowd-pleaser among Italians.
What To Pair It With
The most important part of the cheese platter, well besides the cheese, are what you pair it with. Pick your wooden cutting board or plate that you plan to serve the platter and start arranging your cheese in an attractive even way. We always recommend going seasonal, so try and get some of this season’s last figs which are perfect for a cheese plate. Along with walnuts, pecans and dried fruits (we love apricot). Add a bunch of fresh grapes or berries for a bit of color and to freshen up your palate. Also honey is an absolute must, once again, like cheese you want to opt for the highest quality. At Villa Campestri Olive Oil Resort, we have our own honey made from our bees in a corner of the resort.
If you want to add a bit of meat, we would go with a nice prosciutto toscano (or di parma), thinly sliced and rolled with a toothpick through it, alternatively you can wrap them around sesame bread-sticks which pair well together with the salty meat. Also small cuts of spicy salami can go quite well with a large cheese plate. If we have meat options, we typically add pickled vegetables in small cups.
For wines, this is definitely up to the beholder, but for cheese like pecorino and parmesan, we would go with a Valpolicella or Chianti riserva. Also add a little pot of extra virgin olive oil with some thinly slice rustic bread rubbed with garlic.
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