Gorgonzola is a cow's milk blue cheese made in the Italian regions of Piedmont and Lombardy, in the northern part of the country. Its distinctive blue to blue-green marbling is produced by the Penicillium roqueforti fungus, which is added to the milk at the start of the cheesemaking process.
Country of origin: Italy
Made from: Pasteurized cow's milk
Aging: 2 to 6 months
Color: White/pale yellow marbled with blue or blue-green
Rind: Thin and edible
Fat content: 25 to 35 percent
What Is Gorgonzola Cheese?
Gorgonzola has a soft, crumbly texture and a flavor that ranges from buttery and creamy to nutty and sharp, depending on how long it's aged. Its color ranges from white to pale yellow, and it is marbled with the blue to blue-green mold that is its unique signature. Because the milk isn't heated, and the cheese itself isn't pressed, gorgonzola retains plenty of moisture.
Gorgonzola is considered to be an ancient cheese, with a tradition that dates back to the 11th century and perhaps even further. It gets its name from the town of Gorgonzola, located near Milan, in the Lombardy region of Italy, an area known for its numerous natural caves which are said to have been used traditionally in aging the local cheese.
Gorgonzola made in the E.U. has protected DOP status, although in other parts of the world, including the United States and Australia, the word gorgonzola is considered generic.
How Gorgonzola Is Made
To make gorgonzola cheese, whole pasteurized cow's milk is combined with penicillium roqueforti cultures, enzymes, rennet and salt. The milk begins to curdle immediately, and within 20 minutes, the curds are gently cut into small pieces. The whey is drained, and the curds are transferred into round molds. The wheels are turns several times, then rested overnight before being salted. At this point, each wheel weighs about 40 pounds, but they'll get lighter during the aging process. A finished gorgonzola wheel will weigh about 26 pounds.
The salted wheels are held in a warm room for 3 to 7 days, after which they are transferred to a cold room, around 49 F and up to 95 percent humidity, where each wheel is punctured numerous times with thin skewers, which allows oxygen to circulate throughout the cheese, helping to produce its characteristic blue veins. A saltwater solution is applied to the cheese, which is what produces the rind.
Finally, the cheese is aged for 2 to 6 months. Less aging is required to produce the mild, creamy version, while the more pungent, crumbly one is aged longer.
Types of Gorgonzola
There are two main types of gorgonzola cheese. The so-called dolce, or sweet gorgonzola, is aged for two months. It has a sweet, buttery flavor, mild and milky aroma and soft, creamy, spreadable texture. The color of the mold streaks is distinctly blue. The piccante, or spicy gorgonzola, which has a strong, sharp, flavor, a pungent and spicy aroma, and a compact, crumbly texture, is aged for 3 months or longer, and the color of the streaks is closer to a blue-green.
If you can't find gorgonzola, you can substitute another blue cheese. Stilton is a blue cheese made in England from cow's milk, and Maytag is a variety of cow's milk blue cheese made in the U.S. There are blue cheeses made in Germany, Canada, Finland and elsewhere. Roquefort is a French blue cheeses made from sheep's milk. When substituting for gorgonzola, the most important thing is to substitute cheeses of approximately the same aging.
Gorgonzola is sometimes considered a "dessert" cheese, since it is often featured on cheese platters that are served at the end of a meal. It can be enjoyed on crackers, spread on crostini, paired with fruits like pears and figs, and nuts like hazelnuts and walnuts, or added to salads.
Cooking with gorgonzola is also popular, and since it is a high moisture cheese, it tends to melt quite smoothly. This makes it ideal for making cheese sauces, or simply crumbling it into a pasta, risotto or as a pizza topping. Grilled steak with gorgonzola sauce is a classic pairing.
To store a wedge of gorgonzola, wrap it in wax paper, parchment paper or foil, and store it in the refrigerator. When stored this way, gorgonzola cheese will last for 3 to 4 weeks. If serving it as part of a cheese plate, be sure to take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature for at least an hour before serving.
Try these recipes that feature gorgonzola, or substitute gorgonzola for the blue cheese the recipe calls for.
- Pear Salad with Gorgonzola
- Mascarpone-Gorgonzola Pasta Sauce
- Roquefort and Caramelized Onion Tart
- Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing
Can You Eat the Rind?
Gorgonzola has a thin rind which is made by washing the wheels with saltwater during the aging process, and it it is completely edible.