If you’re looking to improve your cooking, it helps to know the core elements of any sort of cuisine. If there’s a type of food you really love, there is no better way to learn the tricks of the trade than breaking down the basic ingredients of the food. For Italian food, a huge part of the style is cheese and the various types that are used. If you want to master the art of Italian cooking, you might never get the experience of growing up in the country itself. It does help, however, to understand the key cheeses for cooking authentic Italian dishes. Here are 5 Italian cheeses to know for your cooking knowledge.


Possibly the most popular Italian cheese, mozzarella originates from buffalo milk. Made with cows more often now, the original mozzarella often lasted about 24 hours before it was used after creation. Fresh mozzarella begins breaking down as soon as air touches it, so old recipes calling for mozzarella cheese often meant making or buying fresh cheese for immediate use.


Often found in lasagna, ricotta is a cheese made from leftover milk. Often a combination of milk, goat, and buffalo milk, the cheese is low in fat and very creamy. Soft to the touch of the tongue, it’s often used for cream sauces and a variety of baked dishes.


A semi-soft cheese from cows, fontina is native to Val d’Aosta, and it’s tough to import the real thing anywhere else. You can always tell the smell of fontina, as well as the taste, as it is incredibly pungent. Fontina has a naturally nutty flavor, and you’ll find it used in a lot of desserts. Plus, it’s great for grating when matured, often combined with parmigiano.


More commonly known as parmesan, this cheese can be traced back to around 800 years ago. It’s not just used in Italian cooking either. The cheese is common for American foods, as well as French favorites. Nevertheless, its flavor is uniquely Italian, thanks to a lactose-free design that has made it a favorite flavor in the country for centuries.


An old cheese that dates back centuries, gorgonzola is recognized for its bold flavor all over the world. It’s such a bold cheese, it’s often served in antipasto form, simply as an appetizer with crackers or bread. Combine with fresh fruit for the perfect pre-dinner course.