Gorgonzola

I could (and often do) make a meal of crusty Italian bread, Gorgonzola cheese, and a lusty Italian red wine (such as Barolo, Chianti Riserva or Barbaresco).

The Gorgonzola I would select would be Gorgonzola naturale, which has a more assertive flavor than Gorgonzola dolce (aka dolcelatte), which is delicate. I could also, instead of having an overly rich dessert to finish off a fine Italian meal, have Gorgonzola with fresh fruit like pears, figs or grapes. In this instance I would select the milder Gorgonzola dolce.

The point I am making is that Gorgonzola, which is considered one of the great blue cheeses of the world, is so elegantly adaptable and extremely versatile it offers many levels of enjoyment.

The town of Gorgonzola is near Milan (it is actually a suburb of that city now). As the story goes (and there are others), it was in Gorgonzola that the herds were rested during their annual pilgrimage from summer pastures in the mountain to the plain. This meant that every year, and this goes back to ancient Roman times, Gorgonzola found itself awash in a flood of milk –– more milk that it could possibly consume –– so it was turned into cheese.

As mentioned, Gorgonzola is a blue-veined cheese, and it is made from cow’s milk. Way back when, the blueing of Gorgonzola occurred naturally, picking up its characteristic mold (both on the inside and the outside of the cheese) from the walls of the damp caves in which it was stored.

Gorgonzola (and other blue cheeses) is not afforded that type of luxury today. The demand for these cheeses is so great, that the blueing (greenish-blue striations) comes about by pricking the cheese with long needles (copper, brass, and stainless steel is the material), which in effect speeds up the veining process. This pricking of the wheels of cheese allows oxygen to enter and feed on the commercially manufactured mold-producing bacteria (the bacteria is mixed into the curds early in the process; the idea of the piercing simply speeds up the whole process). Generally speaking, Gorgonzola is aged for six months. 

American Gorgonzola has earned high marks on my cheese-tasting score pad. While it has little in common with Italian-made Gorgonzola (softer texture and more assertive flavor on the Italian side), I am very much at home with a well-made domestic Gorgonzola, and I use it in the same manner as I would a Gorgonzola dolce.

Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce

Though this cream sauce works great with tender, chewy nubbins of gnocchi, it goes just as well with a number of short pastas like cavatappi, rotini or rigatoni.

Serves 4 as a pasta course

1 pound gnocchi, cooked al dente, drained well, set aside

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

11/2 (one and one-half) cups heavy whipping cream

3 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

1/2 (one-half) cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a large sauté pan set over medium heat, melt the butter (do not brown). Add 1 cup of the whipping cream and raise the heat to medium-high. Bring the cream to a steady simmer to reduce it a bit.

Meanwhile, process the remaining half-cup of cream and all of the Gorgonzola in a blender or food processor and add it to the cream in the sauté pan. Cook the sauce over low heat for another minute or two.

Add the cooked gnocchi to the sauce to coat. Sprinkle on the Parmesan. Toss well. Serve at once.

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