Belluno is a province in the Veneto region of Italy and is almost entirely occupied by mountain areas. The climate is among the most severe in the Alps. The Belluno area is representative of a typical alpine environment and a people who are proud of their traditions passed down from generation to generation through experience and oral narrative.
Belluno is one of the most important industrial sectors of northern Italy. The production of eyeglasses (Luxottica), home appliances (Zanussi and others) and bathroom fixtures (Ceramica Dolomite, Ideal Standard) are major industries.
Luxottica Group S.p.A., an Italian company, is the world’s largest eye wear company and is a designer, manufacturer, distributor and retailer of eye wear. Leonardo Del Vecchio and two financial partners launched Luxottica in Agordo, Italy in 1961.
Luxottica is the owner of Lenscrafters, Sunglass Hut, Pearle Vision, Sears Optical and Target Optical. Its best known brands are Ray-Ban, Persol and Oakley. Luxottica also makes sunglasses and prescription frames for designer brands such as Chanel, Prada, Giorgio Armani, Burberry, Versace, Dolce and Gabbana, Miu Miu, Donna Karan, Stella McCartney and Tory Burch. Luxottica produces more than 130,000 eyeglass frames each day from six factory sites.
The cultivation of beans in the Lamon highlands and the production of Piave cheese in the Dolomites are important to Belluno’s economy. Large scale dairy cattle breeding in Belluno, began centuries ago by small mountain owners and valley sharecroppers. In more recent times, the Belluno area, like many other mountain areas in Italy, was hit with a serious economic crisis. In order to deal with the socio-economic downfall, a local parish priest, suggested a new form of joint management and the first social cooperative dairy was organized.
Piave is an Italian cow’s milk cheese, that is named after the Piave river. As Piave has a Protected Designation of Origin (Denominazione di Origine Protetta or DOP), the only “official” Piave is produced in the Dolomites area in the province of Belluno.
Piave is a hard, cooked curd cheese, offered at 5 different ages:
Piave Fresco (20 to 60 days aging – blue label)
Piave Mezzano (61 to 180 days aging – blue label)
Piave Vecchio (more than 6 months aging – blue label)
Piave Vecchio Selezione Oro (more than 12 months aging – red label)
Piave Vecchio Riserva (more than 18 months aging – black label).
Piave cheese has a dense texture, without holes, and is straw-yellow in hue. It has a slightly sweet flavor. Once fully aged, it becomes hard enough for grating and it develops an intense, full-bodied flavor.
Piave’s rind is impressed repeatedly in a vertical direction with the name of the cheese. Piave is sold throughout Europe and even in the US as a hard cheese. Its taste resembles that of a young Parmigiano Reggiano. The red label is aged at least 1 year and is called Vecchio (Piave Vecchio Selezione Oro), while the blue label is softer.
Piave Broiled Tomatoes
Makes 2 – 4 servings
- 3 medium tomatoes, sliced into 1/4” slices
- 3/4 cup | 175 mL panko breadcrumbs
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon | 15 mL fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
- 2/3 cup | 150 mL Piave cheese, finely grated
- 1/4 cup | 60 mL olive oil
- 1 teaspoon each | 5 mL each fresh herbs like sage, basil and parsley, finely chopped
Place tomato slices on paper towels to drain. In a medium bowl combine panko breadcrumbs, garlic, sage and Piave Cheese; stir to combine.
Preheat the oven to broil.
Arrange tomato slices on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Equally sprinkle breadcrumb mixture onto each tomato; drizzle with olive oil and place under broiler.
Broil for approximately 3 minutes or until breadcrumbs are golden brown. Remove from the oven, top with fresh herbs and serve.
Makes 2 rounds
- 1 pound Pizza Dough, divided in half
- 6 ounces Piave cheese, shaved, divided in half
- 12 very thin slices lemon, seeds removed, divided in half
- 1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced, divided in half
- 2 tablespoons small sprigs fresh rosemary, divided in half
- Freshly ground pepper
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Place a pizza stone on the floor of a gas oven (remove racks) or the bottom rack of electric oven. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F for 1 hour.
Stretch half the dough into a large round on a wooden pizza peel.
Arrange half the cheese evenly over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border. Top with half the lemon and onion slices. Sprinkle with half the rosemary and season with pepper. Drizzle with oil.
Turn the oven to broil. Align the edge of the peel with the edge of the stone. Tilt the peel, jerking it gently to move pizza onto the stone. When the edge of the pizza touches the stone, quickly pull back the peel to transfer the pizza to the stone. (Do not move the pizza once it is on the stone.)
Broil until bubbles begin to form in the crust, 3 to 4 minutes. Return the oven temperature to 500 degrees F and bake until the crust is crisp and golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes more. (If not using the broiler, bake pizza for 10 to 15 minutes total.) Remove the pizza from the oven with the peel. Repeat with the second pizza. Slice and serve.
Piave Orzo with Peas and Asparagus
- ½ cup | 125 mL heavy cream
- 1 cup | 250 mL chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon | 5 mL lemon juice
- 2 teaspoon | 10 mL lemon zest, grated
- 1 ½ cups | 375 mL Piave Cheese, shredded
- 1 lb fresh asparagus, trimmed into 2” lengths
- 1 ½ cups | 375 mL fresh or frozen peas
- 2 cups | 500 mL orzo | rice shaped pasta
- ¼ cup | 50 mL Italian parsley, chopped
- Additional shredded Piave cheese for garnishing
In a medium saucepan over medium heat bring cream, chicken or vegetable broth to a slow boil. Add lemon juice, lemon zest and Piave cheese, reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring often, until the cheese is melted.
In a large pot of boiling salted water, add orzo and cook for approximately 5 minutes; add asparagus and fresh peas (add frozen peas the last two minutes of cooking), continue cooking until the pasta is al dente and the vegetables are tender – approximately 4 additional minutes.
Drain pasta and vegetables and return to pasta pot; stir in cream cheese sauce and parsley. Garnish with additional Piave cheese and serve.
Figs, Piave Cheese & Honey
- Wedge of Piave cheese
- 4 large figs
- Honey to drizzle, about 4 teaspoons
- 1 sprig of fresh mint leaves, optional
- Fresh cracked pepper
Cut the cheese in half and slice off the rind on both sides. Cut into 12-15 thin triangle slices.
Cut the top of the figs off and then into quarters. Place the Piave slices on a plate with the figs.
Sprinkle the cheese and figs with cracked pepper. Then, drizzle with honey – about a teaspoon on each fig – and garnish with fresh mint leaves, if using.
Serve on individual plates with a dessert fork and knife.