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Say Cheese: Sovrano and My Sister's Salad

Editor's note: This is the first installment of Say Cheese, Domenica Marchetti's weekly (and quite cheesy, but in a good way) contribution to All We Can Eat. She's the author of "Big Night In" and "The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy," not to mention the feature on summer cheeses that appears in our June 10 Food section. Find out more about her at

I saw Sovrano, and I had to try it. Could it replace the hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano in my fridge? (Domenica Marchetti)

Nothing will ever take the place of Parmigiano-Reggiano in my kitchen. I am never without a wedge of it in my refrigerator, and hardly a day goes by that I don’t use it in some way: stirred into chicken broth with pastina (which my daughter likes to bring to school in a thermos), grated over pasta or shaved over salad.

Still, I was curious recently when I came across a display of Sovrano at Balducci's in Old Town Alexandria. This fairly new creation (it’s been in production for less than a decade) is similar in both color and texture to Parmigiano but is made from a mix of cow’s milk and buffalo milk.

Sovrano is produced by Latteria Mauer, a Lombardy dairy company that makes a variety of fresh, semisoft and aged buffalo-milk cheeses. The company was started in 2000 by Fabio Pozzali, whose family has been producing Grana Padano, another Parmigiano-style aged cheese, for more than 60 years.

At $19.99 per pound, Sovrano is at least as expensive as a good-quality Parmigiano-Reggiano, but I gave in to temptation and bought a small, craggy wedge. To my amateur cheese lover’s palate, the Sovrano seemed strikingly similar to Parmigiano when I tasted the two side by side. Like Parmigiano, Sovrano is firm but still creamy, with the pleasing crystal-like graininess characteristic of its cow’s-milk cousin. It is not quite as rich and nutty in flavor, and it lacks the subtly sweet finish of Parmigiano. But it has an appealing, salty taste and a slight tang that pairs well with classic antipasto flavors: olives, salami, roasted peppers and the like.

It is unlikely that Sovrano, which is marketed as a buffalo-milk Parmigiano, will ever dethrone the real thing. But it has its own personality, and frankly, you have to admire a cheese with such big aspirations.

My sister, Maria, who was visiting this past weekend, made perfect use of Sovrano in the following delicious savory salad she created, featuring butter lettuce, arugula, artichoke hearts and bresaola (air-cured beef).
-- Domenica Marchetti

Butter Lettuce and Arugula Salad With Sovrano
6 to 8 servings

2 heads (about 12 ounces total) butter lettuce, washed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces
1 bunch baby arugula, washed and dried
1/2 small (about 2 ounces) fennel bulb, cut into thin slices (1/2 to 3/4 cup)
1 cup canned artichoke hearts, drained and cut into quarters
2 ounces (6 thin slices) bresaola (air-cured beef), cut into thin strips
1/3 cup sliced skin-on or skinless raw almonds
1 1/2 ounces shaved or shredded Sovrano cheese, plus more for garnish
2 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon (2 tablespoons)
Sea or kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the lettuce, arugula, fennel, artichoke hearts, bresaola, almonds and the 1 1/2 ounces of Sovrano cheese in a large salad bowl; toss gently.

Drizzle enough oil over the salad (to taste) to thoroughly coat but not saturate the greens. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the salad, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss gently yet thoroughly.

Divide among individual plates and garnish with additional shavings of Sovrano.

Per serving (based on 8): 97 calories, 6 g protein, 5 g carbohydrates, 7 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 338 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 1 g sugar

By The Food Section  |  June 9, 2009; 2:00 PM ET
Categories:  Say Cheese  | Tags: Domenica Marchetti, cheese  
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