You can’t miss these luscious, whole, pear-shaped cheeses, strung up with twine and hung in the best Italian food shops. Provolone comes from the family of “pasta filata” cheeses, which means “spun paste.” These cheeses are pulled-curd products, mixed with heated whey, then kneaded and stretched to a pliable consistency. They are then molded and shaped, wrapped in cord and hung to ripen. In the process, the provolone forms an oily outside rind, which is golden brown in color. As it ages, it assumes a richer yellow color, firmer texture and a distinctly sharper taste. It is a whole milk product, with origins in the southern regions of Italy, where it was originally known as “provologne”. The newly spelled version of the cheese became “provolone” around the end of the 20th century when northern regions in Italy began to produce a provolone of their own.
Provolone has become increasingly popular for use in a variety of ways, especially in trendy, grilled, Panini sandwiches. As a whole-milk, semi-hard product, provolone is commonly found layered in cold, deli sandwiches, grated as a sweeter cheese topping for pasta and pizza, served with meats, olives, peppers and tangy condiments on antipasto platters, simmered in soups, melted into scrambled eggs or over toast, enjoyed with a hunk of crusty, peasant bread and a bold, red wine or sliced in chunks and eaten with fresh fruit.