Piece of Italian spicy provolone cheese

14 Interesting Facts About Provolone Cheese

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Provolone is a firm, aged Italian cheese with a smooth texture and full, rich flavor. From its likely beginnings as a preservation method on farms in southern Italy, provolone has become a popular cheese around the world, used for both cooking and eating on its own.

Here are 14 interesting facts you may not have known about this delicious, nutty cheese:

Origins and History

1. Provolone was likely first made in southern Italy as a way to preserve excess milk. Like many cheeses, provolone was created as a practical way for farmers to reduce waste and extend the shelf life of milk. By aging it, the cheese lasts far longer than fresh milk could.

2. Its name comes from the Italian verb “provolare” meaning “to test”, possibly because curds were tested during cheesemaking. The specific origins of the name are unclear, but this meaning gives us a hint at provolone’s history as a preserved food that was checked over time.

3. The earliest written mentions date back to the late 18th century. References to provolone first appeared inItalian documents in the late 1700s as it grew into a popular regional specialty.

4. Today, provolone is still mainly produced in specific areas of Italy and Argentina. While enjoyed worldwide, provolone’s most authentic forms come from parts of southern Italy and factories in Argentina established by Italian immigrants. The methods, ingredients, aging process, and flavor profiles distinguish these regional varieties.

natural organic provolone cheese, rustic style
natural organic provolone cheese, rustic style

Taste, Texture and Uses

5. Provolone has a smooth, firm texture with a tangy, nutty taste. The smoothness comes from the pasta filata process of stretching and shaping the aged curd into ropes and rounds. Aged provolone is more crumbly while young versions are elastic.

6. Its flavor profile ranges from mild to sharp depending on age. Younger provolone is milder and used in cooking while the aged, sharper varieties are better for eating as a snack or cheese board addition. The aging process concentrates the flavors.

7. Sliced provolone is a popular sandwich and pizza topping. Due to its meltability and texture, provolone is combined with ingredients like cured meats, tomatoes, and vegetables on Italian-style sandwiches. And its stretchiness makes it a pizza classic.

8. Provolone pairs well with bold flavors like olive oil, pepper, and wine. The cheese’s salty, nutty notes stand up well to similarly assertive ingredients. Aged provolone and dry red wine are classic complements.

Regional Varieties

9. There are several official varieties of authentic Italian provolone. Protected Designation of Origin status has been granted to Provola de Agerola, Provoleta, Provolone Valpadana, and Provolone del Monaco, each with their own specific ingredients, aging, processes and shapes.

10. Dolce provolone is a sweet, soft version popular in the U.S. American provolone is often sweeter than authentic southern Italian varieties due to differences in dairy cattle feed. A younger style, dolce provolone has a mild, creamy flavor.

11. Argentina has its own provolone history and tradition. Brought by Italian immigrants, Argentine provolone uses recipes and techniques from the old country. But new world ingredients and systems make it a local specialty around Po River colonies.

12. Smoked provolone called Provola Affumicata comes from northern Italy. In regions like Lombardy, smoked aged provolone emerges with a distinctive smoky aroma and hardened brown rind. It crumbles nicely over pastas and salads.

Assorted cheeses Pasta filata {Provolone) in various shapes and sizes
Assorted cheeses Pasta filata {Provolone) in various shapes and sizes

Nutrition and Storage

13. Provolone is high in protein, calcium, and vitamins. One ounce contains 7 grams of protein primarily casein, 10% of your RDI for calcium largely from milk, and small amounts of B and A vitamins. Moderate fat and sodium levels make it relatively healthy.

14. Properly stored, it can last from a few weeks for young styles to over a year for the aged. Wrap tightly in waxed or plastic wrap, keep humidity low, and store in the warmest section of the refrigerator. If mold develops on an aged variety, cut away hardened parts and the remainder should still be safe to eat.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is provolone healthy?

Yes, when consumed in moderation. It provides protein, calcium, vitamins, and healthy fats. But it can also be high in saturated fat and sodium if overeaten.

What’s the difference between provolone piccante and dolce provolone?

Piccante is aged over 6 months to develop a sharp flavor while dolce ages around 2-3 months for milder tastes. Dolce is also softer and more elastic.

Can I substitute another cheese for provolone?

Mozzarella, Swiss, asiago, and gouda all have similarities to provolone’s texture. Choose ones aged over 6 months for matches to aged provolone’s flavor.

Is provolone safe to eat when pregnant?

Pregnant people should avoid soft cheeses due to listeria risks. But firmer, aged cheeses like provolone that are cooked thoroughly as pizza toppings are typically safe during pregnancy. Check with doctors for personalized advice.

What wine pairs best with aged provolone?

Full-bodied red wines like Barolo, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel make excellent pairings with provolone piccante’s bold flavor.

Can I freeze provolone cheese?

Yes, it freezes well for 3-4 months. Grate or slice first so you can take out smaller portions as needed. Allow to thaw overnight in the fridge before using.


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