The name Sottocenere means "under ash." It is originally from Venice, Italy, and is made with cow's milk and slices of truffles, then rubbed with various herbs and spices. Sottocenere is a very pale yellow to off-white semi-soft cheese with truffles that has a grey-brown ash rind.
The gray rind is formed by a layer of ash that covers the cheese as it ages and is meant to preserve the cheese over a long period without losing flavor (a Venetian tradition). Mixed with the ash are spices such as coriander, nutmeg and cloves, although these spices hardly flavor the cheese. It is the addition of truffle oil and tiny flecks of black truffle that create the irresistible flavor and aroma.
The rind is edible, although sometimes a little gritty and is less flavorful than the cheese. A strong truffle aroma is followed by a slightly milder truffle flavor.
Truffle! Not only are tiny pieces of truffle found throughout this semi-soft cheese, but the rind is also rubbed with truffle oil. Notes of scalded cream and vanilla manage to sneak past the predominantly earthy flavor profile.
Uses and Pairings
This cheese doesn't need to be paired with much of anything – the rich flavor of truffles shines on its own. A glass of sparkling wine or Italian Barbera will wash it down well. Delicate, aromatic and unusual, Sottocenere is a silken indulgence perfectly suited to the sparkle of Lambrusco.
Truffle Cheese Recipes
A little bit of Sottocenere melted into a dish can be transformative - try melting it over polenta, risotto, or scrambled eggs. Squares of grilled cheese sandwich with Sottocenere could be a fun appetizer at a party (or a completely decadent lunch).
Sottocenere’s texture lends itself ideally to melting, so if you’re embarking on a pan of truffled mac & cheese, this is the way to go. Choose a pasta with plenty of nooks to catch all this deliciousness, like Bartolini Fusilli Gigante. Wondering what cheese to pair with hot cider? The rind of Sottocenere, not to mention the truffle, will pick up that hint of cinnamon stick, and the soft paste will turn to silk in your mouth.
More Types of Truffle Cheese
Here are some additional types of truffle cheese you should try:
- Moliterno Black Truffle Pecorino: A Sardinian cheese with the earthy, nutty, salty flavor of pecorino layered with black truffle paste. The truffles can be seen in dark lines throughout the cheese. Made from raw sheep's milk.
- Boschetto al Tartufo: A semi-soft Italian cheese made from a blend of pasteurized cow and sheep milk. The cheese is mild, letting the shavings of white truffle dominate the flavor.
- Truffle Tremor: Pasteurized goat's milk with a soft, fluffy texture. Flecked with bits of black truffle. Made by Cypress Grove in California.
- Truffle and Salt Cheddar: An aged, pasteurized cheddar made with black truffle salt. Created by Ballard Family Dairy and Cheese in Idaho.
- Truffle Gouda: Dutch gouda flavored with little flecks of black truffle. Less sharp and sweet than some types of gouda, the cheese has a flavor that doesn't overpower the truffles.