Travel and cheese

Ossolano PDO, from the mountain to the table

A very local excellence, which fully expresses the mountain spirit of the (few) valleys where it is produced and conquers with its scent of alpine herbs.

The name is a declaration of love for the territory: there is no Ossolano without Val d’Ossola, that strip that stretches along the Italian slopes of the Pennine Alps from Monte Rosa to Gries. 

A frontier land that is not only peaks and valleys, but also centuries-old traditions which have shaped the habits of those who inhabit this territory every day.

The bond with the Ossola Valley

The Consortium for the Protection of Ossolano PDO delimits its production territory to just 36 municipalities in the Anzasca, Antrona, Divedro, Antigorio, Formazza, Isorno and Vigezzo valleys that fan out onto the Ossola Valley. All together, these valleys lend the Ossola a unique maple leaf shape.

We are in the northernmost part of Piedmont, an area strongly dedicated to animal husbandry and dairy farming, marked by a complex and irregular orography, which has created an extreme fragmentation into small farms.

And it is not just the production of Ossolano PDO that is structured on the morphology of the land, because the organoleptic characteristics of the Piedmontese PDO are in fact an expression of these mountains. 

The territory is in fact entirely mountainous, with steep slopes and climatic conditions characterised by a high and constant rainfall. This characteristic, combined with average temperatures that are lower than in neighbouring areas, allows, on the one hand, the growth of specific meadow essences and, on the other, the maintenance of microclimates suited to the maturing of the cheese. Among the meadow essences, of great importance on the properties of the milk (and therefore of the cheese) is the so-called ‘erba mottolina’, which lends a unique alpine herb aroma to Ossolano PDO.

Identikit of Ossolano PDO

The characteristic aroma, harmonious and delicate, is the product of the local plant essences that provide the feed for the grazing cattle. According to the specifications, these are cows of the Bruna, Frisona and Pezzata Rossa breeds and their cross-breeds.

Local grass and fodder constitute at least 60% of the feed of the cows, up to 90% in the case of Ossolano d’Alpe, with obligatory grazing from 1 June to 30 September. 

The cheeses weigh between 6 and 7 kilos and, despite the very strict regulations on each stage of processing, the craftsmanship of the product means that no two cheeses are really the same, because the organoleptic characteristics are linked to the seasonal variety of the flora.

Among the processing peculiarities that distinguish Ossolano PDO from other cheeses in the area are the pressing of the curd and the semi-cooking.

The minimum maturing period, which contributes to the character and definition of the aromas and flavours of Ossolano PDO, is 60 days.

Ossolano PDO in the kitchen 

As with any cheese, it is important to taste Ossolano PDO at room temperature, thus ensuring that it is taken out of the fridge in good time.

Especially suitable for serving as a table cheese, it also lends itself easily to the preparation of first courses, such as the typical Ossola gnocchi (with a mixture of pumpkin, chestnuts, potatoes and white flour). Of course, it is perfect with all the typical dishes of the area such as fondue, black bread soup and polenta concia ( a tasty polenta with melted cheese), but a slice of Ossolano DOP can also add a special touch to a simple polenta dish.

When very mature – and therefore more tasty and flavoursome – this cheese lends itself to being grated and used with risottos or soufflĂ©s, but also on fresh pasta dishes. 

Our tip: try the pumpkin flan with the sauce prepared using Ossolano PDO instead of Parmigiano Reggiano.

The traditional pairing is with noble red wines such as Barbera, Dolcetto, Merlot, Chianti, Barolo, Barbaresco, as well as all the Novara DOC wines with Nebbiolo as their base. 

On the other hand, the less mature version of Ossolano DOP goes better with fragrant white wines that enhance its delicate aromatic balance.

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