Roccaverano DOP, Piedmont’s goat cheese excellence
There is a goat cheese in Piedmont that has recently shed light on its characteristics and is, as is often the case, the fruit of a small territory with a long cheese-making tradition.
All cheeses, and especially all PDOs, are strongly linked to the territory of production, but some more than others. This is the case of Roccaverano, one of the few goat PDOs in Italy that takes its name from the municipality where it originated, in the province of Asti.
A Piedmont excellence with a very strict production specification, its name has recently been changed to reaffirm its identity and to impose tighter production regulations.
The origins of Roccaverano PDO
Up until February 2023, Roccaverano DOP was, since 1996, Robiola di Roccaverano DOP.
The origins, of course, are much older, and it seems that the Celts produced a cheese very similar to the one that has come down to us today.
However, to find written evidence, we must wait until 1899. A manuscript recounting the parish of Roccaverano mentions ‘excellent robiola cheeses’. These certainly included the one that has come down to us, made with goat’s milk that could be mixed with cow’s and/or sheep’s milk depending on what was available at the local dairy.
However, over time, Roccaverano has become to all intents and purposes a 100% goat’s cheese, made with full-fat milk and exclusively from the Roccaverano and Camosciata Alpina breeds and their crossbreeds, coming from consecutive milkings, carried out over a period of time between 24 and 48 hours. For this reason, in addition to the name, some specifications were changed in early 2023, including the requirement to use only goat’s milk.
The production territory has not changed: ten municipalities in the province of Asti (including Roccaverano) and nine municipalities in the province of Alessandria.
From Robiola to Roccaverano PDO
But why is this cheese no longer a robiola cheese? The term ‘robiola’ is widely used today for cheeses that are mostly linked to industrial production and often not matured. These are characteristics that are very different from Roccaverano PDO, which can boast a processing method that is far from being industrial.
The fresh version of Roccaverano PDO (with a ripening period of 4 to a maximum of 10 days) has a creamy, soft texture and a delicate, savoury and/or slightly acidic flavour. The matured version has a rind – which is not in the fresh version – and a consistency that, although soft, becomes more and more compact as the maturing process continues. The flavour, therefore, is much stronger than the fresh version.
Cooking with Roccaverano PDO
Whether fresh or mature, Roccaverano PDO is excellent eaten on its own or seasoned with oil and chilli pepper. For this purpose, it can be stored in oil-covered glass jars to extend its shelf life, so it is always ‘ready to use’. Traditional local cuisine often uses it in fillings to make local dishes like pasta, flans, and desserts. The fresh version is suited to be spread and to make easy bruschetta and tasty raw appetisers, or it can be served with the two typical Piedmontese sauces, ‘bagnet vert’ and ‘bagnet russ’. Also excellent for creaming risottos: try it with pumpkin and rosemary or with a tasty risotto alla parmigiana with apple mostarda, dark chocolate and orange peel powder.
After 4 months of seasoning, it can also be used grated, to add flavour and garnish many dishes.
The fresh version, on the other hand, goes well with strong white wines, even those that are aged and rich, while the mature version goes well with important red wines, late harvests and passito wines. Also worth trying is the intriguing pairing with beer and vermouth.