The birthplace of Gorgonzola. Maybe.
(Page 2 of 2)
But Amaranto and her ancestors still have the place of honor in the legend of how Gorgonzola came to be created, and so Manzoni brings her to the fair for people to see.Skip to next paragraph
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Although no official documentation exists of the cheese's birth, its origins are estimated to go as far back as the 13th century or earlier.
In one version of the story, it is said that in those days, herdsmen from the north brought their cows down from the mountains in September to graze on the lush, sweet grass of the plains surrounding Milan. The first stop along the southern migration was the tiny settlement of Gorgonzola. To show their gratitude to the local landowners for the grazing rights, the herdsmen offered them the milk from the herd. It was with this large supply of milk that the Gorgonzolesi started to make and sell cheese.
This first cheese was called stracchino, from the Italian word meaning "tired." It is a reference to the milk that came from the cows that were exhausted after their long migration south.
The lowly stracchino's successor, Gorgonzola, was an accidental invention.
As writer Oriana Morini Casalini recounts it, one evening, a love-struck casaro, or cheesemaker, rushed out to meet his girlfriend without finishing his work. The following morning, fearing he might lose his job if it was discovered he had thrown out the previous day's batch of unfinished cheese curd, he surreptitiously dumped it in with the new milk supply.
This set in motion a process that produced a greenish-blue-veined curd with a strange look and a pungent odor - sometimes compared to smelly socks by detractors - and Gorgonzola cheese was born.
We thought about this as we headed home with Enzo and to a dinner, prepared by his wife, Teresa, of pasta with Gorgonzola sauce.
Teresa had recently completed a course in gastronomy offered by La Cucina Italiana and is passionate about food. Now she is using her training as a volunteer at the school her 11-year-old son, Marco, attends. She gives the children lessons in food appreciation and nutrition.
In her small but well-equipped kitchen, as she was preparing the pasta sauce, I asked Teresa if she agreed with the popular notion that France has the best cheeses. The other three Italians sitting nearby immediately and vigorously dissented, but the more food-democratic Teresa agreed that France has excellent cheeses. Italy's cheeses are just as good, however, she said, and more varied.
And her ranking of the top three cheeses in the world? The answer was instantaneous: Parmigiano-Reggiano, grana padano, and Gorgonzola.
All Italian, of course.
l pound mezzani (or substitute ziti, penne, or long macaroni)
5 to 7 ounces Gorgonzola cheese
1/3 to 1/2 cup walnuts, quartered
l tablespoon butter
Salt (for pasta water)
Parsley, if desired, for garnish
Bring 4 quarts of salted water to a full boil and add pasta. Cook according to package directions.
Meanwhile, cut the Gorgonzola into small pieces and put into a large pan together with the butter and about three-fourths of the walnuts. Set the pan aside.
When the pasta is done, remove it from the stove and turn the burner to high. Drain pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water. Immediately add the hot pasta and 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the hot pasta water to the cheese mixture in the large pan. Place the pan on the hot burner for about 1 minute, stirring to blend. Add a little more hot pasta water, if necessary, to achieve creaminess.
Sprinkle with chopped parsley and divide among 6 dinner plates, garnishing with remaining walnuts and parsley sprigs.