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Say Cheese: Love that cantina smell

Look closely and you'll see bits of grape peel in the rind of Barone Rosso. (Domenica Marchetti)

Barone Rosso smells like an old cantina. That may sound like an insult, but I mean it as a compliment.

I purchased a thin wedge of this semi-aged cow’s-milk cheese from Italy’s Veneto region at Red, White and Bleu, in Arlington Falls Church, the other day. I opened up the package and set the cheese on my counter, and within minutes my kitchen seemed to take on the aroma of every small, cool and musty cantina that I have ever been in. I was in love with the cheese even before I tasted it.

Barone Rosso is one in a series of “Ubriaco” (drunken) cheeses produced by La Casearia Carpenedo. The wheels are buried in barrels of grape marcs, the solid remains of grapes pressed for wine, where they are left to mature for several months and take on the color and flavor of the grape.

Recipe Included

The Carpenedo family has been in the cheese business since the early 1900s, but it is only within the past three decades that it has focused on innovative aging and flavoring techniques. The company, located outside of Treviso, produces one of my all-time favorite cheeses, Sottocenere al Tartufo, which has a paste flecked with black truffle and an alluring ash- and spice-coated rind.

According to La Casearia’s Web site, the technique of aging cheese in wine marcs is rooted in a wartime tale that brings to mind the 1969 film "The Secret of Santa Vittoria." Fed up with handing over their meager provisions to the Italian troops during World War I, peasants in the hills around Treviso began hiding wheels of cheese in barrels of marcs. The cheese was transformed. In 1976, Antonio Carpenedo began reviving this aging technique and has been experimenting with it ever since.

Included in the “Ubriaco” series are cheese aged in the marcs of Amarone, Nero d’Avola, Raboso, Prosecco and Torcolato, a dessert wine. The rind of Barone Rosso is literally wine-dark, purple-black. Upon closer inspection you are likely to see bits of grape peel adhering to it. Although the rind looks tough, it isn’t at all, and I quite enjoy its winey bitterness. The interior paste is crumbly when cool, but it turns supple at room temperature. It is straw-colored and rich and fruity in flavor, not too salty but with a tongue-tingling sharpness that reminds me a bit of a good provolone (only better).

I noticed a description of another cheese available through the La Casearia Web site: Cacio Delizia Radicchio, which incorporates into its paste bits of the vibrant red-leafed chicory for which Treviso is famous. It sounds rather gimmicky, but it gave me a good idea for a way to use my wedge of Barone Rosso. I made a crunchy radicchio salad with a creamy Parmigiano dressing, and liberally sprinkled some crumbles of Barone Rosso on top. To wash it down? A bottle of Barbera d’Asti, of course.

-- Domenica Marchetti (Follow me on Twitter.)

(Domenica Marchetti)

Radicchio Salad With Crumbled Barone Rosso and Creamy Parmigiano Dressing
8 servings

For the dressing
1/3 cup regular or low-fat mayonnaise (do not use nonfat)
Freshly squeezed juice from 1/2 lemon (1 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons half-and-half
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon garlic salt
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the salad
3 small heads radicchio (cored and outer leaves removed), torn into large pieces
1/2 small red onion, cut into thin slices (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup crumbled Barone Rosso cheese (see headnote)

For the dressing: Whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon juice and vinegar in a medium bowl. Drizzle in the oil, whisking to incorporate, then whisk in the half-and-half, Parmigiano-Reggiano, oregano, garlic salt, sea salt and the pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the salad: When ready to serve, toss the radicchio and red onion with the dressing in a large bowl. Sprinkle the crumbled Barone Rosso cheese on top and serve.

By The Food Section  |  May 25, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Recipes , Say Cheese  | Tags: Domenica Marchetti, Say Cheese, recipes  
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Red White and Bleu is in Falls Church, not Arlington. The

Posted by: jeffolnhaus | May 25, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the catch!

Posted by: Domenica1 | May 25, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

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