A dairy product representing an absolute Lombard gastronomic excellence, taleggio is a raw cow’s milk cheese with a washed rind.
It features a soft internal consistency that heralds the delicious fatness released upon tasting. Naturally, taleggio can be used in the kitchen in many ways: in its raw version but especially cooked.
With a large caloric intake and an interesting nutritional profile, this cheese, protected by a consortium and the Protected Designation of Origin, is rich in sensory nuances.
Below we deepen its main features with some historical notes and see three creative recipes to use it at its best in the kitchen.
Origins of the name and history of taleggio
Also known in ancient times as Lombard cacio, this cheese takes its name from its valley of origin in the northern province of Bergamo.
Although taleggio has been known and appreciated since the Renaissance, the Sforza family and other famous admirers, including Giacomo Casanova, the name dates back to the early twentieth century and derives from the desire of the cheesemakers of the homonymous valley to distinguish their cheeses from the ones not produced locally.
If taleggio was initially produced in this area, thanks to its fame, the production area has gradually extended to the places between the Ticino and Lambro rivers, spreading throughout the entire area of the Po Valley.
Thanks to the greater availability of cattle farms, the production of taleggio expanded greatly; in fact, this product is obtained from raw cow’s milk.
From 1944, when the term taleggio officially appeared for the first time, until the recognition of the mark of origin and protected designation in 1996, this cheese’s popularity gradually increased, earning a place in the kitchens of all of Italy.
Taleggio production process and nutritional profile
To prepare this tasty cheese, the first step involves the injection of cow’s milk, which can be raw or pasteurized, with lactic ferments and the addition of calf rennet.
When you reach the prefered consistency of the curd, the dough is broken, which is then extracted and poured into the typical moulds. The following process is the so-called stewing, which is necessary to reach the right degree of acidity.
After the dry salting, the seasoning, which cannot be shorter than 40 days, occurs in cold and particularly humid environments. Then, to obtain the classic washed rind, the external surface of the cheese is subjected to sponging of water and salt.
The result is a cheese with an unmistakable rind, with the characteristic grooves created by the racks. It appears reddish to orange on the outside, with small grey moulds. Inside, however, the consistency is soft and cream-coloured.
As for the nutritional profile, it is essential to note that taleggio is a dairy product that should be consumed moderately.
The caloric intake of taleggio cheese is by no means negligible; in fact, the cheese provides 315 calories per 100 grams. The same quantity also contains an amount equal to 26.2 grams of saturated fat.
However, this washed rind cheese has excellent nutritional properties, including a high protein value (19 grams). Furthermore, the quantities of vitamins, particularly the B group, phosphorus and calcium, are not negligible.
Easy and tasty recipes based on taleggio
In addition to the characteristics that make it unique and very much loved by many consumers, taleggio is also exceptionally versatile in the kitchen, where you can often find it cooked.
Its soft consistency and unmistakable flavour make it ideal for cooking, giving personality to the most varied preparations. From delicious appetizers to rich, unique dishes: taleggio can enhance many recipes.
Thanks to the many uses that can be made of it in the kitchen, this Lombard cheese represents a valuable ally not only for everyday dishes but also for the most original and gourmet creations.
There are almost endless possibilities to explore with taleggio, which can be used as au gratin, melted to become part of a creamy sauce and much more.
Below we see three examples of easy but, at the same time, magnificent recipes, which can be adapted and customized by replacing some ingredients if you prefer.
Lasagna with asparagus and taleggio cheese
This recipe is perfect for those who want to discover taleggio in a more springtime version.
This delicious cheese of Lombard origin tends to be more often associated with autumn or winter ingredients. With this recipe, we discover how it can give a truly unique tone even to asparagus, which can be replaced with spinach or herbs.
- First, boil 300 g of green asparagus in abundant boiling water and add a teaspoon of olive oil.
- After about 8 minutes, turn off the cooker and allow it to cool in the water.
- Take the asparagus, and cut the tips into small pieces, keeping the stems aside.
- In a small saucepan, mix 80g of butter with 80g of flour with the help of a whisk, cooking over medium heat to create a smooth, lump-free roux.
- Separately heat 800ml of milk with a teaspoon of nutmeg and when it reaches boiling temperature, pour over the butter and flour.
- Boil the mixture and stir continuously, leaving it to cook for a few minutes.
- Once the desired consistency is reached, add salt and turn it off.
- At this point, blend the béchamel with 150 grams of taleggio cheese, and the asparagus stalks are cut into chunks, adding salt if necessary.
- Now you can prepare the lasagna, which requires 12 fresh pasta sheets.
- Pour a spoonful of béchamel on the bottom of an ovenproof dish. After placing a sheet, pour the béchamel, the chopped asparagus tips and another 150 g of taleggio cheese cut into small pieces, thus continuing with the layers until the ingredients are finished.
- 11. Finally, conclude with a layer of béchamel, asparagus and taleggio cheese, baking at 180 ° for 30 minutes.
Potato gratin with taleggio sauce
This dish is delicious and perfect even for the little ones. It can be served as an appetizer or an alternative to the main course.
- First, wash 800g of potatoes and put them to boil in a large pot.
- After about 20 minutes, check the potatoes, which should be cooked but still al dente. Drain and leave to cool by peeling the potatoes.
- As soon as they are lukewarm, pass them in a potato masher, collecting the puree in a bowl, where you will also add 100g of diced cooked ham, two eggs, three tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. If necessary, you can add a drizzle of milk to soften the dough.
- Pour the mixture into muffin moulds or paper cups after dusting the surface of each flan well with a knob of butter and a few breadcrumbs. Bake at 200°C for about twenty minutes.
- To prepare the taleggio sauce, cut 200 grams of the Lombard cheese into small pieces and pour them into a pan with high sides together with 200ml of whole milk, adding 100g of grated Parmesan cheese and black pepper to taste.
- Stir with the help of a whisk while keeping a medium heat, paying attention to avoid lumps.
- Once ready, pour the taleggio sauce with the help of a spoon, creating a radial pattern on each plate and gently place a previously baked potato pie.
At this point, serve immediately on the table while the dish is hot.
Polenta croutons with radicchio, onions and taleggio cheese
This recipe is straightforward, but it can be customized according to needs with a long preparation. If you don’t have a lot of time, you can avoid preparing polenta, focusing instead on a ready-made version of excellent quality.
- To make this recipe, it’s necessary to prepare the yellow polenta, preferably the day before, by pouring 250g of cornflour into a litre of boiling salted water.
- During cooking, which lasts for about 50 minutes, it is essential to use a whisk to avoid the formation of lumps and to stir frequently.
- Once this phase is completed, pour the polenta on a large sheet of baking paper, then roll it up to form a large cylinder that will be left to cool.
- At this point, very finely slice two medium-sized red onions and brown them over a low flame in a pan with two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, adding a teaspoon of thyme towards the end.
- Set the onion aside, and in the same pan, sauté about 250g of radicchio, well washed and cut into strips, adding salt and pepper.
- At this point, cut out about 16 slices from the polenta and arrange the red onion, radicchio and 150 g of taleggio in chunks on top.
- Grill for about 5 minutes and serve immediately.
Conclusion on what is taleggio cheese
Taleggio proves to be a truly indispensable ingredient for all those who wish to give a more intense flavour and a softer texture to many dishes, even if moderate consumption is recommended due to its large caloric intake.
Although excellent if eaten raw, perhaps cut into cubes and served with a few teaspoons of honey or some red fruit compote, taleggio seems to be made for cooking.
When baked or fried, taleggio melts to create a flowing cream that immediately makes dishes more delicious and ideal for all dishes.