Provolone Rediscovered: Don Giovanni Auricchio’s Secret Recipe

In America, we’re most used to eating provolone cheese on sandwiches. In fact, we consume giant amounts of it on sandwiches, pizzas, and party trays. However, the type we’re accustomed to eating isn’t the provolone treasured by Italians. Once you’ve tasted “true” provolone, aged in a cave in northern Italy, you’ll feel your vocabulary for Italian cheeses expanding. A car is a car, but a Ferrari is a Ferrari.

Provolone has been referred to as Italy’s national cheese. Auricchio, a family-owned Italian cheese-making firm based in Cremona, leads the nation in provolone production. The Provolone Auricchio debuted in 1877, its signature flavor attributed to its proprietary rennet blend referred to as the “secret of Don Gennaro,” after Gennaro Auricchio, the company’s founder. Today, Auricchio credits the popularity of its product line to “ancient customs adapted to present day, yet preserved in quiet awareness…”

Auricchio’s cheese-makers bring their milk from dairy farms located no more than 100 kilometers from their production facility in Pieve San Giacomo. After Don Gennaro’s secret rennet is added, and the curd has been broken, cooked, drained and spun, Auricchio’s cheese-makers knead the resulting paste by hand, in accordance with their 140-year-old tradition. At the end of the process, once each cheese is brined and bound, it is aged in temperature- and humidity-controlled storage rooms until it is ready for packaging.  Certain varieties, such as the Piccante, will age for a year or more.

The Stravecchio, a firm, sharp cheese aged for at least 14 months, has a dark brown wax coating and works well grated over pasta or served in thin slices with cured meat, like Bresaola or Soppressata.

The Dolce, a younger, sweeter cheese, has a gentle, milkier flavor, and will function well in a variety of dishes. Toss it in salads, layer slices in sandwiches, melt it atop whatever you please. 

The Gustoso has a soft texture and a spicier flavor than its siblings. It will work well served on bruschetta, or as a fondue.