Originating in southern Italy, this full-bodied cow's milk cheese has a firm, buttery texture that makes it perfect for grating and cooking. It's surrounded by a shiny golden rind and ranges in flavor from mild and slightly sweet when young, to strong, tangy and salty as it ages.
Often called "mozzarella's older brother," provolone [proh-voh-LOH-nee] can be used anywhere mozzarella is, including pizzas and lasagnas. It's also one of the best cheeses for sandwiches.
Varieties and Buying Tips
Authentic Italian-style provolone comes in two varieties: dolce (meaning "sweet") and piccante ("sharp"). Provolone dolce, aged two to three month, is pale yellow, semi-soft and smooth. Mild in flavor, it's often used as a table cheese.
Provolone piccante, aged three months to more than a year, has a richer yellow color and a more pronounced spicy flavor. Harder in texture, it's ideal for grating. This cheese can be hard to find in the U.S.
Italian provolone also offers variety in its many shapes and sizes. Though most often found in a pear shape (called mandarino, mandarone or provoletta), it also made in sausage (pancetta, pancettone or salamino), bottle (fiaschetta) and cone (gigante, gigantino or gigantone) shapes. The size can range from a tiny ball all the way up to 200 pounds.
Provolone is now manufactured in the United States as well. The American version is very mild, tasting like a slightly fuller-flavored mozzarella. This cheese is most often found in supermarket delis or pre-packaged in round or square cream-colored blocks.
Wrap airtight in a plastic bag or foil and store in the refrigerator. The cheese should keep for several weeks.
- For maximum flavor, let provolone sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes before eating.
- Enjoy with tomatoes, roasted red peppers, olives and hearty bread drizzled with olive oil.
- Roll thin slices for antipasto trays.
- Grate and add to your favorite pizzas, frittata and tossed salads.
- Melt on top of sandwiches and soups.
- Serve with red grapes, figs and pears for dessert.
Try one of our favorite provolone recipes:
Saltimboca Chicken Breasts with Sage Sauce and Creamy Arugula Pasta
Tuscan Pork San