The story goes that a distracted herdsman accidentally added curdled milk to other curdled dairies. The next day he stood in front of the first Gorgonzola ever made, complete with bluish veins, a somewhat unpleasant smell but an exquisite taste.
Some say it was created around the year 879 in the town of Gorgonzola, a stone’s throw from Milan. However, according to Renzo Pellati, Gorgonzola dates back “only” to 1816, and it seems it was produced in a dairy in Pasturo in Valsassina.
Here, there are caves where the temperature remains between 6 ° and 12 °, perfect for the seasoning.
Gorgonzola is a typical blue cheese with raw texture, more or less soft depending on the type, white-straw yellow, and a rougher, vaguely reddish rind.
Its main feature is the green veins linked to marbling, i.e., the added lactic ferments and spores that lead to mould formation.
How Gorgonzola is produced
The Gorgonzola PDO is produced exclusively by Lombard dairies in the province of Milan, Lecco, Varese, Monza, Como, Brescia, Cremona, Pavia and Bergamo.
This exquisite cheese is also produced in Piedmont, in the provinces of Casale Monferrato, Verbano-Cusio-Ossola, Biella, Vercelli, Cuneo, and Novara, where the “Consortium for the Protection of Gorgonzola Cheese”, founded in 1970, is based.
The consortium regulates every phase of Gorgonzola production so that the quality and authenticity of the product are preserved, protecting the producers.
The ingredients necessary to produce Gorgonzola are lactic ferments, spores, salt, and whole milk, produced exclusively by cows with controlled feeding and reared in stables that comply with hygienic-sanitary standards.
The production process of Gorgonzola PDO begins with the storage of the previously pasteurized milk in large boilers, with the addition of microorganisms, called starters, which initiate a series of chemical reactions the typicality of Gorgonzola depends on.
The lactic ferments Lactobacillus Bulgaricus and Streptococcus Thermophilus, yeasts, and Penicillium Roqueforti are added to the mix: a mould spore, a sort of mushroom widely used in the food sector.
Next, we add the rennet, and then everything is brought to a temperature of roughly 30° for about twenty minutes: once the coagulation is obtained, the cheesemaker begins to crush the curd, eliminating the excess whey.
For this purpose, the rennet is then placed in moulds, which are turned several times to ensure an optimal purging.
The quality certification (CG, which means “Consorzio Gorgonzola”) is imprinted on the cheeses.
After 24 hours, the cheese salting procedure begins, in brine or dry, followed by ageing. The latter occurs in environments with a temperature between 2° and 7° and a humidity level between 85% and 99%.
During this phase, the expert cheesemakers shape the cheese wheels with metal needles to let oxygen penetrate inside and thus encourage the formation of mould.
The ageing can have a different duration: from 50 to 150 days in the case of Gorgonzola Dolce, which is softer and creamier; from 80 to 270 days for the Spicy Gorgonzola, which has a more compact, crumbly, and consistent paste, with a very strong flavour and much more prominent veins.
After the maturation period, each form of Gorgonzola is wrapped in aluminium paper, which, aside from protecting the rind, preserves all the organoleptic properties developed during the production process.
The seal of quality is also stamped on the paper.
Gorgonzola: calories and nutritional values
Many may think that Gorgonzola PDO is a fat cheese: but in fact, 100 grams of the product provide 324 calories and have a fat and cholesterol content that, for the same quantity, is the same as that of lean meats such as chicken or turkey.
Gorgonzola is also rich in nutrients such as noble proteins, fats, salt, vitamins A-B1-B2-B3-E, and mineral salts (including selenium, zinc, magnesium, iron, potassium, sodium, phosphorus, and especially calcium).
Gorgonzola is also gluten-free and lactose-free: lactose is removed by lactic ferments. At the same time, gluten is absent because rice starch has replaced wheat flour as the soil for the proliferation of moulds.
Gorgonzola also contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid that the body cannot synthesize. It’s responsible for a more pleasant sleep and a calmer, more serene mood.
The spermidine contained in this cheese is essential to counteract the onset of cancers and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. This benefit was confirmed by research published in the scientific journal “Cell Metabolism”, carried out by the Israeli Weizmann Institute.
The pungent smell of Gorgonzola and its intense flavour only stimulates the production of pancreatic juice and bile; for this reason, this cheese improves the digestive process and other gastrointestinal disorders.
Gorgonzola in your kitchen
Gorgonzola is one of the symbols of the gastronomic tradition of Italy: it’s a versatile product that can be used as an ingredient in more sophisticated dishes or on its own.
In the latter case, you can enjoy the flavour without “contaminations”, perhaps accompanied by raw vegetables such as cherry tomatoes, radishes, or fresh celery, which creates a pleasant contrast with the creaminess of the cheese.
Gorgonzola is also excellent with cooked salads, potatoes, broccoli, zucchini, dried fruit, and fresh fruit: try the combination of Gorgonzola and kiwi, strawberries, figs, apples, or pears.
Even jams and compotes can accompany Gorgonzola perfectly, including mustard and acacia honey.
Sweet Gorgonzola goes best with white wines, while Spicy Gorgonzola goes well with red wines and Trappist and Belgian beers.
Risotto with walnuts, pears, and Gorgonzola PDO
Amaze your diners with a rich first course with a strong flavour by preparing an excellent risotto with Gorgonzola.
Here’s what you need:
- vegetable broth
- 100 gr Parmigiano Reggiano PDO
- 1 glass of white wine
- 50 grams of butter
- walnut kernels
- 2 Decana pears
- 1 shallot
- 350 grams of Carnaroli rice
- 100 gr of Spicy Gorgonzola PDO
First, chop the shallot and put it to fry with about 30 grams of butter in a pan: after that, add the rice, toast it for a few minutes, and pour the white wine.
Start cooking the rice with the broth, adding it every time it gets dry. When the rice is almost cooked, add the Gorgonzola PDO, one pear cut into small pieces and the other previously pureed.
Then, remove the rice from the heat and add the Parmigiano Reggiano, the remaining 20 grams of butter, and the walnuts.
Beef fillet with Gorgonzola PDO
To prepare this tasty and rich second course, you need:
- beef fillets
- extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
- sprigs of rosemary
- 200 gr of Sweet Gorgonzola PDO
- 500 grams of potatoes
- 2 cloves of garlic
Peel the potatoes and cut them into wedges: put them in a pan with a bit of oil, garlic, and chopped rosemary.
After adding salt and a pinch of pepper, add a little water and cook the potatoes with the lid on for about twenty minutes, stirring occasionally.
When they’re almost cooked, raise the heat to form the crust and then remove them from the heat.
Put the potatoes aside and cook the meat for up to 2 minutes on the side, very rare, to keep the fillets soft and juicy: then sprinkle the rosemary, salt, pepper, and diced Gorgonzola PDO on the meat.
Cook for another two minutes, adding a drop of water if necessary, and serve the fillets accompanied by potatoes.
Muffin with Gorgonzola PDO
The ingredients necessary to prepare this tasty appetizer, also perfect for vegetarians, are:
- 60 ml of milk
- 40 gr of Parmigiano Reggiano PDO
- 1 yolk
- 1 whole egg
- 180 gr of pumpkin
- 180 gr of Flour 0
- 60 ml of seed oil
- 70 gr of Sweet Gorgonzola PDO
- 1 teaspoon of yeast for savoury pies
- salt and pepper
- extra virgin olive oil
- sunflower seeds
- pinch of baking soda
Put a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil in a pan, fry the chopped shallot and add the diced pumpkin: cook for about twenty minutes and blend everything with the food processor. Add the yolk, whole egg, seed oil, and milk to the mixture.
In the mix obtained, add the Parmigiano Reggiano, flour, pepper, salt, bicarbonate, and yeast:
- Pour a little of the well-blended dough into muffin moulds.
- Put a piece of Gorgonzola PDO in the centre.
- Pour more dough and sprinkle the surface with sunflower seeds.
Bake for about 20 minutes in the oven at 180° and serve lukewarm.
The always beloved Gorgonzola
We shouldn’t be surprised by Gorgonzola’s great success since the 1900s when it was first exported abroad. Winston Churchill loved it so much that during the bombings of the Second World War, the area of Gorgonzola was protected not to destroy the precious dairies.
It was also featured on the First-Class menu of the legendary ocean liner Titanic, which sank due to a collision with an iceberg in April 1912.
Charlemagne was also fond of it, ordering tons of Gorgonzola PDO for his home in Aachen.