Fontina is considered to be one of the world’s best cheeses. Its nutty, creamy flavor is appreciated everywhere.

Fontina Italian cheese is a table cheese as well as an excellent cheese for cooking. It is favored the world over for both its versatility and its taste. It also appeals to a wide variety of people because of its smooth and nutty taste. Fontina cheese is perfect in a wide range of recipes because it melts more evenly and smoothly than many other cheeses.

Mountain peacefullness - photo courtesy of Val d'Aosta Tourist Board

Val d’Aosta – Situated in the northwestern tip of the country, Valle d’Aosta is Italy’s smallest region. Its borders with France are marked by the highest mountains in Europe: Mont Blanc, Monte Rosa, the Matterhorn and Gran Paradiso, making it a favourite destination for winter sports lovers.

In Italy, fontina cheese has been made in the Val d’Aosta area since the 12th century. In 1957, a consortium of dairy producers and cheesemakers joined together to protect the cheese, and they created a stamp for Fontina cheese and the cheese is stamped with this mark if it meets the standards that have been in place since 1957. Traditionally, Italian fontina cheese has a slightly flowery, summery flavor, thanks to the diet of the cows which are used to produce it. The cheese is also aged longer than other varieties, and it can get quite hard. Italian fontina also has a dark brown rind, which gets darker the longer that the cheese is aged.

To preserve the fresh natural taste of the whole, raw milk from which Fontina is produced, the cheese making process is done within two hours of milking. Once it is made, it is shaped into various forms and braids. The Fontina is then aged under proper humidity and temperature conditions to give the finished product the unique taste that this cheese is known for in the culinary world.

Aosta Valley Fontina

The intervention by man is daily: it needs constant care to make Fontina. The forms are turned over every day, alternating one day for salting and one for brushing. The scrubbing serves to take away from the crust the layer of mould due to the natural fermentation and to make the crust humid. The approximate period for maturing is 3 months.

In terms of color, fontina cheese ranges from ivory to golden yellow. It is produced in rounds and its texture is smooth and firm. All fontinas must be made from cow’s milk. As a general rule, the milk is usually raw, and the best fontina cheese is made from milk which is as fresh as possible. The interior of the cheese is classically riddled with very small holes. The milkfat content is usually around 45%, so the cheese tends to be very rich and creamy, with a nutty flavor that gets stronger with aging. Since the cheese  melts very well,  it is included in fondue and similar dishes.

There are two other cheeses that are similar to fontina in both taste and appearance. These are fontinella and fontal. However, neither are produced in the Aosta valley, so they cannot be called fontina.

Caring for Fontina Cheese

Fontina should be refrigerated. The open cut on the cheese should be protected with tightly fitting plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Kept this way, it should last between four and five months. As it is stored, however, you can expect it to age naturally and become more pungent.

Among its many uses, fontina is a traditional table cheese in Italy. It is served alongside other table cheeses, such as gorgonzola, along with crusty Italian bread, fresh fruit, black olives, and perhaps some crisp raw vegetables.

When selecting fontina cheese in the store, look for an evenly textured piece without discoloration. Older Italian cheese may have a strong aroma, but young cheese should have a relatively neutral flavor. An Italian fontina stamped with the mark of the consortium will have a high quality, although it may cost more than imitations of the cheese made in other parts of Italy and the rest of the world.

Fontina is a wonderful cheese to use in addition to mozzarella on a pizza. It’s smooth texture and tangy flavor make a delicious topping for any gratin, and this creamy cheese also melts nicely into soups, chowders, pasta or sauces.

For a twist on the traditional grilled cheese sandwich, substitute Fontina Cheese for Cheddar or American the next time you make one. A croissant with ham and Granny Smith apple slices can be heated with Fontina Cheese for a unique sandwich idea. Even such simple dishes as baked potatoes or macaroni and cheese can be enhanced by the addition of Fontina.

Breakfast

Chive and Fontina Frittata

 Ingredients:

  • 4 large eggs and 1 cup egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup lowfat milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 2 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 2 teaspoons butter or Smart Balance spread
  • 3 ounces shredded Fontina cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In medium bowl, with wire whisk or fork, mix eggs, milk, salt, and pepper. Stir in diced tomato and chopped chives.

In nonstick 10-inch skillet with oven-safe handle (or wrap handle with heavy-duty foil), melt butter over medium heat. Pour in egg mixture; sprinkle cheese on top of egg mixture. Cook 3 to 4 minutes until frittata begins to set around the edge.

Place skillet in oven. Bake 9 to 10 minutes or until frittata begins to set and knife inserted in center comes out clean.  Serves 4.

 

Lunch

Pesto and Roasted Eggplant Pizza

 

 Ingredients:

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425ºF.

Cut peeled eggplant into 1/2-inch thick slices; cut each in half crosswise. Brush baking sheet with 2 teaspoons of the oil; arrange eggplant in single layer on top. Brush with 1 tablespoon more of the oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast, turning halfway through, for about 30 minutes or until dark and tender. Raise oven temperature to 500ºF.

Spread the pesto over the pizza dough; sprinkle with Fontina cheese. Arrange eggplant over top, then tomatoes or spread pizza sauce over eggplant. Drizzle remaining oil over tomatoes.

Bake in bottom third of the oven until cheese is bubbly and crust is golden and slightly puffed.

 

 

Side Dish

Brown Rice With Cheese

Ingredients:

  • Salt
  • 1  1/2 cups brown rice, rinsed well
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup grated fontina cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper.

 Directions:

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it as you would to cook pasta. Add rice and stir. When water returns to a boil, lower heat and cook rice until tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain in a fine colander.

2. Put butter in the same pan and turn heat to medium. When butter melts and just begins to turn brown, add rice and toss together. Stir in Fontina cheese, Parmesan, along with salt and pepper.

Yield: 4 servings.

 

 

 

Dinner

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Greens, Beans, Pancetta, and Garlic Bread Crumbs

For a vegetarian entree, leave out the pancetta.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices fresh Italian bread (about 3 ounces), crusts removed and torn into quarters
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 tablespoons), divided
  • Table salt
  • 3 ounces pancetta or proscuitto, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 medium onion , diced small (about 1 cup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 1  1/2 pounds kale (loosely packed) or swiss chard leaves, thick stems trimmed, leaves chopped into 1-inch pieces and rinsed, water still clinging to leaves
  • 1  1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans , drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 pound whole wheat spaghetti
  • 4 ounces fontina cheese , coarsely grated (about 1 cup)
  • Ground black pepper

 Directions:

1. Pulse bread in food processor until coarsely ground. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch straight-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add bread crumbs and cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon garlic; cook, stirring constantly, until garlic is fragrant and bread crumbs are dark golden brown, about 1 minute. Season bread crumbs with salt, transfer to small serving bowl, and set aside. Wipe out pan with paper towels.

2. Heat remaining tablespoon oil in now-empty pan over medium-high heat, add pancetta, and cook until crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer with slotted spoon to a paper towel. Do not wipe out pan.

3. Add onion to pan; cook until starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add remaining tablespoon garlic and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring constantly, until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds.

4. Add half of the greens to pan; using tongs, toss occasionally, until starting to wilt, about 2 minutes. Add remaining greens, broth, and 3/4 teaspoon salt; cover (pan will be very full); increase heat to high and bring to strong simmer. Reduce heat to medium and cook, covered, tossing occasionally, until greens are tender, about 15 minutes (mixture will be somewhat soupy). Stir in beans and pancetta.

5. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil in Dutch oven over high heat. Add spaghetti and 1 tablespoon salt; cook until pasta is just barely al dente. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add greens to pasta, set over medium-high heat, and toss to combine. Cook until pasta absorbs most of the liquid, about 2 minutes. Add fontina; adjust seasonings. Top with garlic bread crumbs.

 

Turkey Meatloaf with Fontina and Mushrooms

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 small leeks, white and light-green parts only, thinly sliced, washed, and dried thoroughly
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup shredded fontina cheese (4 ounces)
  • 1 slice day-old bread, processed into large crumbs
  • 1 large egg or 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 1  1/2 pounds ground turkey (93 percent lean)

 Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Working in batches, cook mushrooms, stirring once or twice, until deep golden brown, about 5 minutes per batch. Season with salt and pepper; transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Return skillet to medium and add 1 tablespoon oil. Add leeks and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 4 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add to bowl with mushrooms and let cool.

Add fontina, bread, egg, and sage to bowl and mix until thoroughly combined. Mix in turkey, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. On a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet, use your hands to form turkey mixture into a 10-inch loaf. Bake until cooked through, about 45 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

 

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