Telling people that Italy is my least favorite country for cheese invariably solicits a gasp of disgust. Much of what The Boot exports cheese-wise is done well and granted, some of it is inimitable, but generally speaking it's not known for its variation in style. And if you eat a lot of cheese, it's this trait that you crave in a country.
But every so often, I stand corrected. Step aside, taleggios, gorgonzolas, provolones, and mozzarellas. Presenting Nostrale di Elva, a raw cow's milk cheese from Piemonte.
Not only is this cheese unlike some of Piemonte's most famous cheeses like robiolas and DOP-great Castelmagno, it's unlike any other Italian cheese, period.
With a smooth, rich paste and exceedingly creamy mouthfeel, it feels more luxurious than the country's rustic, crumbling cheeses like Fiore Sardo and other aged pecorinos. With an affinage of at least 30 days but sometimes up to six months or more, the result remains dense and buttery, becoming ever so slightly funky when at room temperature.
Its natural rind lends an earthy undertone, while the brining of the wheels at two days of age adds a salty complexity to its finish.
You can take various paths when pairing with beverages. Try a stout to pull out its creaminess or a hoppy West coast IPA to accentuate its subtle lactic bite.
Nostrale di Elva is available at Formaggio Essex for $18.99/lb and and at Formaggio Kitchen for $9.95/half lb.