How to Use Provolone Cheese in Cooking

Provolone cheese, with origins in Italy, has a distinguished presence in the culinary world thanks to its versatility in flavor and texture. Ranging from mild to sharp, this semi-hard cheese can suit a variety of tastes and preferences.

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Its ability to melt smoothly makes it an excellent choice for a spectrum of dishes, from simple sandwiches to intricate entrees.

Provolone cheese being grated over a steaming bowl of pasta

When cooking with Provolone, consider both the dish’s flavor profile and how the cheese’s characteristics can complement or enhance it.

The milder versions of Provolone pair well with the savory notes of cured meats, while its nuanced nuttiness can accentuate the natural sugars in roasted vegetables.

Whether you’re planning a meal that’s simple or sophisticated, Provolone’s adaptable nature allows it to easily become a staple in your cheese repertoire.

Above all, your approach to using Provolone in the kitchen should be guided by the specific qualities you want to bring out in your meal.

The cheese’s capability to bridge ingredients with its smooth texture and balanced taste can turn an ordinary dish into a memorable culinary experience.

So, as you explore various recipes, let Provolone be your ally in elevating everyday cooking to something truly special.

History and Types of Provolone

Before you dive into the nuances of Provolone, understand that this cheese boasts a rich heritage from Southern Italy and comes mainly in two varieties, each delivering distinct flavor profiles and textures suited for various dishes.

Origins of Provolone

Provolone cheese is your quintessential Italian semi-hard cheese hailing from Southern Italy. The name “Provolone” itself points towards its larger size in comparison to its smaller relative ‘Provola’.

Historically recognized as a staple in Italian cuisine, Provolone began as a fresh cheese, which would eventually develop its character with age.

Provolone Piccante and Dolce

  • Provolone Dolce: If you prefer a milder taste, Provolone Dolce is for you. It’s aged for 2 to 3 months, developing a sweet and creamy profile. This version of Provolone serves as a perfect melting cheese due to its gentleness, making it ideal for sandwiches or pizzas.
  • Provolone Piccante: For a more robust flavor, Provolone Piccante is aged longer, usually more than 4 months, and can even extend up to a year. You’ll detect spicy and sharper nuances in this variety. It’s utilized to imbue dishes with a pronounced taste, perfect for grating over pastas.

Aged Provolone

As Provolone ages, its flavor intensifies and the texture becomes firmer. Aged Provolone can range from a semi-hard to hard texture depending on the aging process, which can last from a few months to over a year.

Quality aged Provolone, such as that labeled “Provolone Valpadana DOP,” is often sought after for its nuanced flavor. This cheese typically isn’t smoked, but you might come across smoked Provolone that adds a unique depth to your culinary creations.

Selecting and Storing Provolone Cheese

To enjoy the full flavor of Provolone cheese, it is essential to select high-quality, fresh cheese and store it correctly. This ensures that the cheese retains its distinct taste and texture until you’re ready to use it.

Assessing Quality and Freshness

When choosing Provolone cheese, inspect the packaging for any signs of damage which can affect the cheese’s freshness. For fresh cuts from a deli, look for a consistent color and a smooth texture without any cracks or dryness.

Quality Provolone should have a pleasing aroma and feel slightly firm to the touch, indicating it has been properly aged.

Proper Storage Techniques

After purchasing Provolone cheese, proper storage is crucial to maintain its quality:

  • Temperature: Keep Provolone cheese refrigerated at a consistent temperature between 35°F to 40°F (1.7°C to 4.4°C).
  • Wrapping: If it’s cut from a deli, store the cheese in the paper it came in, or wrap it in parchment paper followed by plastic wrap to protect it while allowing it to breathe.
  • Containers: You can also place the wrapped cheese in an airtight container to further prevent it from absorbing other flavors in the fridge.
  • Shelf Life: When stored properly, Provolone cheese can last for several weeks. Keep an eye on its condition; if you notice any sour smell, sliminess, or mold, it’s best to discard it.

Basic Preparation Techniques

When working with provolone cheese in your recipes, proper preparation is essential to ensure that its full flavor is brought out and it blends seamlessly with other ingredients. Whether you’re slicing it for sandwiches or grating it for a melt, the technique can make all the difference.

Slicing and Grating Provolone

  • Slicing: For sandwiches or to serve on a cheese platter, slice provolone at room temperature to get clean cuts. A sharp knife or a cheese slicer is ideal for achieving thin, even slices that are perfect for layering.
  • Grating: When your recipe calls for grated provolone, chilling the cheese beforehand makes it firmer and easier to grate. Use the coarse side of a box grater for a fluffy pile that will melt evenly. Grating provolone is perfect for sprinkling over hot pasta or incorporating into a salad.

Melting Provolone Cheese

  • On the Grill: Provolone cheese can be grilled to create provoleta, a South American dish where the cheese develops a deliciously crispy crust and gooey interior. Place a thick slice on a preheated grill, and cook until it begins to bubble and brown at the edges.
  • Melting: Provolone melts smoothly, making it a go-to choice for creamy sauces or topping for baked dishes.
  • Add slices or grated provolone to a hot dish and allow the residual heat to melt the cheese, or employ a double boiler for a gentle melt when making a fondue or sauce.

Provolone in Cooking

Provolone cheese, with its rich and nutty flavor, is a semi-hard Italian cheese that excels in various dishes. It brings a slightly tangy finish to the table and can transform your cooking from simple to sublime with its remarkable versatility.

Appetizers with Provolone

  • Stuffed Peppers: Fill bite-sized peppers with a mix of Provolone and cream cheese, then bake until bubbly.
  • Cheesy Breadsticks: Wrap strips of dough around Provolone sticks and bake until golden.

Using Provolone in Main Dishes

  • Grilled Cheese Sandwiches: Combine Provolone with other cheeses to create a gooey, flavorful filling.
  • Pasta Dishes: Grate Provolone over hot pasta for a nutty twist, or incorporate it into your casserole recipes for a rich, cheesy layer.
  • Chicken Provolone: Top a seared chicken breast with a slice of Provolone and bake until the cheese melts.

Side Dishes and Accompaniments

  • Gratin: Layer thinly sliced potatoes with shredded Provolone, and bake until you achieve a golden crust.
  • Cheesy Vegetables: Sprinkle Provolone over roasted or steamed vegetables and broil until the cheese is perfectly melted.

Provolone Pairings and Combinations

Provolone cheese’s versatility allows for an array of combinations to enhance your culinary creations. Understanding the right pairings can elevate simple dishes to sophisticated cuisine.

Flavor Pairings

Your Provolone cheese can be paired beautifully with various herbs and condiments to bring out its distinctive nutty flavor. Here are some specific combinations:

  • Herbs: Basil, oregano, and thyme complement Provolone’s tanginess.
  • Condiments: Try balsamic vinegar or a drizzle of olive oil for an added depth of flavor.
  • Cured Meats: Provolone works wonderfully with salami, prosciutto, and soppressata, offering a balanced taste experience.

Incorporating garlic into dishes with Provolone adds a savory punch that accents the cheese’s subtle sharpness.

Wine and Beverage Pairings

When it comes to wine, Provolone cheese pairs well with a variety of options:

  • Red Wine: Medium-bodied red wines like Chianti or Merlot balance the cheese’s richness.
  • White Wine: Crisper white wines such as Pinot Grigio can cut through the creaminess of Provolone.
  • Beer: For a more casual beverage pairing, a crisp lager or pale ale can be refreshing alongside the semi-hard texture of the cheese.

Creative Recipes Featuring Provolone

Explore the versatility of provolone in your kitchen with these scrumptious recipe ideas.

Perfect for cheese enthusiasts, these dishes will let you savor provolone’s rich flavor in sauces, sandwiches, and pasta.

Provolone Cheese Sauces

Bechamel with a Twist: Elevate the classic béchamel by melting in provolone for a richer flavor.

Simply whisk grated provolone into your roux until smooth, and pour over vegetables or use as a base for a luscious mac and cheese.

Provolone Fondue: A social favorite, combine provolone with a splash of white wine and garlic for a smooth fondue.

Dip crusty bread, blanched vegetables, or even roasted meats into this warm cheese sauce and enjoy a convivial dining experience.

Innovative Sandwich Ideas

Philly Cheesesteak: For an authentic touch to your Philly cheesesteak, layer thinly sliced steak with caramelized onions and provolone on a hoagie roll.

Melt to gooey perfection under the broiler.

Gourmet Paninis: Create paninis oozing with flavor by adding slices of provolone between your choice of bread, along with tomatoes, basil, and cured meats.

Grill to golden brown and enjoy the melding of Italian cuisine in a handheld delight.

Unique Provolone Pasta Creations

Stuffed Shells: Fill your pasta shells with a mixture of ricotta, chopped spinach, and provolone.

Bake until bubbly, and this dish showcases provolone’s capacity for transforming a simple pasta dish into a sumptuous meal.

Creamy Provolone Pasta: Toss al dente pasta with a creamy provolone sauce, made by gently stirring grated cheese into a simmering mixture of cream and butter.

The result is a simple yet sublime pasta dish that can be garnished with herbs or paired with your favorite protein.

Health and Nutritional Information

Provolone cheese being grated over a colorful salad, with a stack of sliced cheese next to it. A recipe book open to a page titled "Health and Nutritional Information" sits nearby

When incorporating provolone cheese into your meals, considering its health and nutritional profile can help you make informed choices.

Dietary Considerations

Provolone cheese is a significant source of calcium, with a single slice providing around 20% of your recommended daily intake.

This mineral is crucial for maintaining strong bones and plays a role in blood clotting and muscle function.

Additionally, provolone contains vitamins A and B-12, which are important for maintaining good eyesight and aiding in the production of red blood cells.

Fat and Caloric Content

When consuming provolone cheese, it’s important to be mindful of its fat and caloric content.

Provolone is classified as a semi-hard cheese and contains a moderate amount of fat, which contributes to its rich, nutty flavor.

Here’s a breakdown of provolone’s fat content per serving:

  • Total Fat: Approximately 7 grams
  • Saturated Fat: Around 4.8 grams

A typical serving size, which is one slice (about 1 ounce), contains roughly 100 calories.

Balancing provolone intake with other sources of fat in your diet is important for overall health.

Tips and Tricks for Cooking with Provolone

Experimenting with provolone cheese in your culinary creations can yield delightful results.

This semi-hard cheese is known for its ability to impart a rich and tangy flavor when used in cooking.

The following subsections will provide you with specific techniques to integrate provolone’s creamy texture and bold taste effectively into your dishes.

Enhancing Dishes with Provolone

Provolone cheese is highly versatile, making it ideal for a range of recipes.

You can utilize its smoked or milder variants based on your preference for a subtle or more pronounced cheese flavor. Here is how you can enhance various dishes with provolone:

  • Pasta & Casseroles: Add grated provolone for a smooth and creamy texture in baked dishes.
  • Sandwiches & Burgers: Use slices of provolone to add a buttery and slightly tangy taste.
  • Salads & Antipasti: Incorporate provolone pieces for a bold flavor contrast.
  • Stuffed Peppers & Meats: Stuff with chunks of provolone for a melty cheese pocket.

Cheese Melting Techniques

Achieving the perfect melted provolone cheese consistency enhances the texture and allows the cheese to blend seamlessly into dishes. Here are some specific techniques to melt provolone cheese effectively:

  • Oven-Baked: Place provolone on top of your dish and broil until bubbling and lightly golden.
  • Stovetop: For sauces or fillings, melt sliced or grated provolone over low heat, stirring until creamy.
  • Microwave: Although not ideal, quick melting can be done in a microwave in short intervals, ensuring the cheese does not overheat and become rubbery.
  • Grill: Melting provolone on a burger directly on the grill imparts a smoky flavor.

Serving and Presentation

A block of provolone cheese being sliced and melted over a sizzling skillet of sautéed vegetables, with steam rising and the cheese bubbling and browning

When introducing Provolone cheese to your table, consider both its place as a standalone treat and its complementary role in dishes.

A well-presented Provolone can satisfy cheese lovers and adds a touch of sophistication to your culinary offerings.

Cheese Platters

For an appetizer, offer Provolone on cheese platters, achieving a balance between mild and sharp flavors. Here’s how you can make your platter appealing:

  • Select an Assortment: Include a range of cheeses from soft to hard, alongside Provolone.
  • Add Complements: Pair with fruits like grapes or figs, nuts, and a variety of crackers or artisanal bread.
  • Presentation: Arrange in a circular pattern on a wooden board, with Provolone taking center stage.

Garnishing with Provolone

Use Provolone to not only enhance flavors but also to elevate your dish’s visual appeal.

Remember, the key is moderation to avoid overpowering the dish.

  • Grated Provolone: Sprinkle over pastas or risottos for a nutty flavor and aesthetic touch.
  • Sliced or Shaved: Place atop burgers or sandwiches before melting for a gourmet look and taste.
  • Consider the construction of your dish and where Provolone can add a visual and flavorful accent.

Culinary Techniques and Equipment

A chef slices and melts provolone cheese on a hot griddle, then drapes it over a sizzling burger patty

Provolone cheese, originating from Italian cuisine, lends itself excellently to various cooking techniques, especially those involving heat to reveal its full flavor and texture potential.

Using the Oven and Broiler

Oven Baking: When you bake provolone cheese, you’ll want to take advantage of its melting qualities.

Preheat your oven to the appropriate temperature—typically around 375°F (190°C).

For dishes like casseroles or stuffed shells, layer or stuff slices of provolone cheese to create a gooey, melted result.

Baking times will vary based on the recipe, but you’ll generally look for a golden brown surface as an indicator of doneness.

Broiling Provolota: Provolone cheese in its ‘provoleta’ form is perfect for broiling.

Slice the provolone thickly and place it in an oven-safe dish or on a baking sheet.

Broil on high, keeping a watchful eye as the cheese bubbles and begins to brown—this usually takes just a few minutes.

Remove it when it reaches your desired level of caramelization.

Grilling with Provolone

Ideal Techniques: Grilling provolone cheese requires a medium heat to avoid burning.

If you’re using slices of provolone on burgers or sandwiches, lay them on top shortly before the meat finishes cooking; the residual heat will melt the cheese adequately.

For a standalone grilled cheese experience, consider creating a provolone packet by wrapping it in foil, grilling for 2-3 minutes per side, until it’s perfectly melted and partially charred for added flavor.

Caring for Provolone Cheese

Provolone cheese being sliced and melted over a bubbling pot of marinara sauce

Proper care extends the life and preserves the quality of your provolone cheese. By understanding how to clean and maintain the cheese, as well as how to store it correctly, you ensure that your provolone remains delicious until the last slice.

Cleaning and Maintenance

When handling provolone cheese, cleanliness is pivotal.

Before and after touching the cheese, wash your hands thoroughly to prevent contamination. If you need to cut the cheese, ensure the knife and cutting board are also clean.

After use, wrap the provolone firmly in parchment or wax paper, which allows the cheese to breathe, then cover it with plastic wrap or aluminum foil to prevent it from drying out.

  • To clean utensils:
    • Wash with hot, soapy water.
    • Rinse with hot water to remove soap residue.
    • Dry with a clean towel or allow to air-dry.

Extending Provolone’s Lifespan

Storing provolone cheese properly is key in maintaining its flavor and texture.

Your cheese should be kept in a refrigerator, ideally at a temperature between 34°F and 40°F.

For long-term storage, provolone is best kept in the warmest part of the refrigerator, such as the vegetable crisper. This part typically maintains a consistent temperature appropriate for prolonging the cheese’s lifespan.

Tips for proper storage:

  • Wrap tightly to keep the cheese firm and moist.
  • Store in the lowest humidity drawer to stay dry, unless your refrigerator allows humidity control.
  • Check regularly and consume within a few weeks for optimal freshness.

Cultural Significance of Provolone

A table set with various dishes featuring provolone cheese, surrounded by people enjoying the food

Provolone cheese has a revered place in Italian tradition and has been embraced by American cuisine, enriching dishes with its distinct flavor profile.

Provolone in American Cuisine

In America, Provolone has found its way into your sandwiches, pizzas, and burgers, becoming a cherished addition for its ability to melt smoothly and deliver a mild yet tangy taste.

It’s common to see slices of Provolone in a classic Philly cheesesteak, where its creamy texture complements the savory beef.

When you’re perusing the dairy aisles, Provolone varieties range from mild to sharp, allowing you to tailor your cooking to your desired flavor intensity.

Provolone in Italian Traditions

Within Italian cuisine, Provolone is more than a cheese; it’s a cultural artifact.

In Italy, the cheese is integral to your antipasto platters and often accompanies cured meats and olives.

It holds a special place in Italian gastronomy, especially in Southern regions where it originates.

In these places, traditional methods and family recipes use Provolone to accentuate dishes like stuffed pastas and risottos.

The cheese represents a craft passed down through generations, entwined with Italian heritage and culinary artistry.

Frequently Asked Questions

Provolone cheese being sliced and melted over a sizzling hot pan

Provolone cheese is a versatile ingredient with a rich, nutty flavor that can elevate a range of dishes. Explore common inquiries to maximize its culinary potential.

What dishes can provolone cheese be best incorporated into?

Provolone cheese works well in Italian dishes such as pizzas, calzones, and lasagnas due to its ability to melt smoothly and its mild tanginess.

What are some simple recipes that involve provolone cheese?

You can easily incorporate provolone cheese into grilled cheese sandwiches, cheese omelets, or on top of burgers for a creamy, flavorful addition.

In what ways can provolone cheese enhance chicken dishes?

Adding provolone to chicken dishes like chicken Parmesan or stuffed chicken breasts can provide a gooey, rich layer that complements the lean meat’s flavor.

Can provolone cheese be used effectively in vegetarian recipes?

Absolutely, provolone cheese can be a star in vegetarian recipes such as stuffed bell peppers, cheesy baked pastas, or layered in caprese sandwiches for added depth.

How does provolone cheese behave when melted?

When melted, provolone cheese becomes stretchy and creamy, making it ideal for dishes that require a smooth, enveloping cheese texture such as quesadillas or Philly cheesesteaks.

What flavors pair well with provolone cheese in cooking?

Provolone cheese pairs well with a variety of flavors. These include tomato-based sauces, cured meats, olives, and robust herbs like basil and oregano. This combination creates a balanced taste profile.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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