Gorgonzola is one of the most famous Italian cheeses in the world. It is known for its blue veins and unique flavor, which is both sharp and sweet. Gorgonzola is a member of the blue cheese family of cheeses. The body of gorgonzola cheese is an ivory color. It has pronounced blue-green veins and a gray-gold or a reddish-brown, wrinkled crust. Gorgonzola comes in a circular shape.

This cheese gets its name from the small town of Gorgonzola, located near Milan and the cheese has been produced for centuries. Although, we do not know the exact date it was first produced, we know it was probably around the late Middle Ages. The cheese itself was first produced in the ninth century, although its full blue green-gray color was not fully developed until the 11th century. Gorgonzola was originally aged in caves, where the blue veins in the cheese developed from spores. At one time, Gorgonzola was called “Stracchino” cheese and was used to cure stomach conditions during the Middle Ages. It was also believed to prolong life.

Gorgonzola cheese has special PDO status, which means that it has a Protected Designation of Origin. The quality and authenticity of Gorgonzola is protected by international and Italian law with certain regulations concerning the manufacture and packaging of the cheese. In fact, a consortium was created by the Italian government in order to protect and oversee the production of Gorgonzola. Gorgonzola must be produced with milks from certain provinces in Italy, and it also must be produced in the Piedmont or Lombardy regions in Italy.

Piedmont scene

Gorgonzola, Italy

A centuries-old legend has it that a young boy working as an apprentice in a dairy was given the important job to oversee the production of the cheese. Even though this job required serious attention, the youngster worked attentively until one evening, distracted by a surprise visit from his girlfriend, he forgot to finish making the cheese. When he returned to work the next morning, the boy immediately realized his mistake and found the milk curds covered with mold. Aware of the trouble that he would be in if his master discovered his mistake, the apprentice decided to mix the ruined curds with fresh milk in an attempt to dissolve the mold. The blue-green veins did not go away, however the boy quickly realized that he had invented a creamy cheese that tasted good: without intending to, he created Gorgonzola.

In the past, Gorgonzola could take one year to produce because of the long aging process. Today, the cheese is exposed to more oxygen, which shortens the process to three to six months. The cheese can be of a young or an old variety. Gorgonzola that has not been aged long is called Dolce and is creamier and milder than the aged version. It is good for sauces and spreads. Piccante and  Naturale Gorgonzola are the aged varieties. They are sharper and more crumbly which make them good additions to the tops of prepared dishes or for eating by themselves. In fact, Gorgonzola is most frequently served as a dessert cheese at the end of a meal.

Gorgonzola cheese is an uncooked cheese made from whole cow’s and/or goat’s milk. The milk is added to Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus bacteria along with spores of the mold Penicillium glaucum or Penicillium roqueforti. After the whey is removed from the mixture, it is aged at low temperatures. As it ages, metal rods are inserted to create air channels which allow the cheese greater exposure to oxygen. The increased oxygen causes the mold spores to germinate much more quickly and create the blue-green veins. Gorgonzola is usually aged for three to four months, after which it is wrapped in foil.

Gorgonzola can be used in several ways. It is often served alongside fruit such as pears, grapes and figs and paired with wine at the end of a meal. When used in dishes, it can be served cold (on a salad, for instance) or hot. Gorgonzola sauces can be created for topping vegetables and short pastas such as ziti, and it is sometimes heated and served atop baked oysters. Gorgonzola can also be melted into a risotto or served with Polenta. Gorgonzola is highly perishable so it must be refrigerated. It should be well wrapped in either aluminum foil or plastic wrap. It can be kept this way for a maximum of about 45 days. Gorgonzola cheese is a living food, so it will continue to mature as it is stored. It will develop a stronger flavor and become softer. If, however, the body of the cheese develops a pink or a brown tone, it is too ripe and should be discarded.

Many dishes prepared with Gorgonzola cheese are very fattening because they usually include heavy cream. The smart way to use this cheese is with moderation and low fat ingredients.  Since it is a strong flavored cheese a little goes a long way.  The recipes for the first and second courses below are less than 350 calories per serving and the appetizer and dessert courses are less than 200 calories per serving.

Some Typical Ways Italians Serve Gorgonzola Cheese – Made Healthy

Antipasto Course

Arugula and Pear Salad with Pomegranate

4 Servings                                                                                                                                                              

Ingredients:

  •  1/2 cup balsamic vinegar syrup
  • 4 oz. arugula, washed well and dried
  • 3 Seckel pears, peeled and sliced
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked
  • black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tablespoons toasted walnut pieces
  • 4 tablespoons Gorgonzola cheese
  • 1 pomegranate, seeded

Directions:

Make balsamic syrup by placing vinegar in a small saucepan and cooking over low heat until thickened (or until it starts bubbling). Cool. Place the arugula and pears together in a mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Dress with olive oil and lemon juice. Divide salad onto four cold plates and garnish with walnuts, cheese (1 tablespoon per plate) and pomegranate seeds. Drizzle a spoonful of balsamic syrup over each salad.

First Course 

Pasta with Swiss Chard and Gorgonzola

You can use 12 cups of spinach instead of Swiss Chard. Do not add the spinach to the boiling water with the pasta until the last 2 minutes of pasta cooking time.

4 Servings      

Ingredients:

  • 12 cups Swiss chard leaves, cut into 1 inch strips, stems reserves for another use
  • 6 ounces dried angel hair pasta
  • 2 teaspoons salt free garlic & herb seasoning
  • 4 ounces low fat/skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons chopped sun dried tomatoes
  • 1½ tablespoons finely chopped sage
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnut halves, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup fat free milk warmed slightly

Directions:

1. Bring 2 quarts water to a boil over high heat in a large pot. Add in the Swiss chard and pasta, lower heat to medium high and cook until pasta is tender, about 3-4 minutes; drain.

2. In a large bowl add all of the remaining ingredients except for the milk, add in the cooked pasta and Swiss chard, stir until cheese is melted and all ingredients are well combined.

3. Slowly stir in milk.

Second Course

Gorgonzola & Prune Stuffed Chicken

Serve over quick-cooking barley with broccoli or artichoke hearts on the side.

4 servings

Ingredients:

Gorgonzola & Prune Stuffed Chicken Recipe

  • 1/2 cup chopped prunes, divided
  • 1/3 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • 1/4 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme, divided
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, (1-1 1/4 pounds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 teaspoons all-purpose flour

Directions:

Combine 1/4 cup prunes, Gorgonzola, bread crumbs and 1/2 teaspoon thyme in a small bowl. Cut a horizontal slit along the thin edge of each chicken breast, nearly through to the opposite side. Stuff each breast with about 2 1/2 tablespoons filling. Use a couple of toothpicks to seal the opening. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until golden, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil, shallot and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon thyme to the pan; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add wine and the remaining 1/4 cup prunes. Reduce heat to medium; cook, scraping up any browned bits, until most of the wine evaporates, about 2 minutes. Whisk broth and flour in a small bowl until smooth; add to the pan and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 2 minutes.

Reduce heat to low, return the chicken and any juices to the pan and turn to coat with sauce. Cover and cook until the chicken is cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes more. Remove toothpicks, slice the chicken and top with the sauce.

 Dessert Course

Vanilla Scented Poached Pears with Gorgonzola Cheese and Toasted Pine Nuts                                                                   

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 large ripe but firm Bosc pears
  • 2 cups sweet wine such as Riesling or Gewurztraminer
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons whole allspice berries or 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

Directions:

Peel pears, if desired and cut lengthwise in half. (If you like, leave the stems attached to two of the halves for an attractive  appearance.) Use a melon baller or grapefruit spoon to scoop out the seeds. Bring wine, water and allspice to a boil over high heat in a large saucepan or Dutch oven just large enough to arrange pear halves in one layer. Add pear halves. Reduce heat so as to maintain a gentle simmer. Simmer pears uncovered, turning over each 5 minutes with a large spoon until pears are almost tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, 15 to 20 minutes.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer pears to a shallow bowl; cover tightly with foil to keep warm. Turn heat to high; boil juices in a saucepan until reduced to 1/3 cup, 16 to 18 minutes. Stir in vanilla. Transfer pears to serving dishes. Drizzle syrup over pears; top with cheese and pine nuts.

Tip: It’s not necessary to peel the pears. Many of the vitamins are just beneath the skin, and leaving the skin on helps keep the pear from becoming mushy.

Gorgonzola ripening

Gorgonzola Ripening

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