It's funny that we've never covered this truffle-studded cheese before. Rich, creamy, and dotted with plenty of specks of the good stuff, Sottocenere is actually pretty easy to find. And with just the right amount of fancy, it'll appeal to the truffle-lover in all of us. (Everyone has one lurking somewhere.)
"Aplenty" may actually be an understatement. Sottocenere has incredible pungency, ranging from pleasantly aromatic to slightly overpowering, depending on your truffle tolerance. Infused not only with actual truffle pieces but also with truffle oil, which is actually what makes the cheese resonate so profoundly.
And while people's opinion of this Italian specimen may vary-- especially the purists out there, who believe cheese should be just that, something with which not to meddle or dress up-- one thing is unquestionable: the texture is smooth, buttery, and soft. It's almost borderline gummy, but in a pleasing way.
The stats: Raw cow milk, from the Veneto, aged for about 3-4 months. Sottocenere means "under the ash," which refers to the ashy grey rind, which is rubbed with spices like cinnamon, cloves, licorice, and nutmeg. How it then becomes grey is unbeknownst to this cheesemonger, but it's aesthetically different and eye-catching.
Flavor-wise, expect intensely savory notes that give way to a milky richness. It's undoubtedly truffle-y, there's no mistaking it. Mushroomy, slightly smokey and sweet, and earthy. From its taste you'd think it emerged not from a dairy case but from beneath the leaves of a damp forest floor.
Try it with honey and spiced nuts, or go with Janet Fletcher, cheese columnist at The San Francisco Chronicle, whose inspired suggestions deem the cheese most regal when melted: atop a burger, into polenta, or within an omelet.
Find Sottocenere on sale at Murray's Cheese for $19.99/lb.
Nora Singley is an avid lover of cheese, and for some time she was a Cheesemonger and the Director of the Cheese Course at Murray's Cheese Shop in New York City. She is currently an assistant chef on The Martha Stewart Show.
Related: What's the Deal with Truffles?
(Image: Formaggio Kitchen)