Salty-sweet blue cheese is melded with walnuts and sage, then tossed into fresh egg pasta to make a very dishy dish
The shopping list of the elderly woman ahead of me at the market a few days ago read: 55g of grated pecorino, four slices of mortadella and a spoonful of gorgonzola. As the woman behind the counter pushed the extremely small lump of cheese through the grater, sliced the dusty pink mortadella and scooped from a veined round of gorgonzola, there was chatter – about the uncollected rubbish reeking by the side of the market, a grandchild, but mostly about the gorgonzola itself, and how much the woman’s husband hated it as much as she adored it. We were four in line, one woman twitching with impatience, but that didn’t matter – there was a tub containing about 600g of gorgonzola to be sealed and a story to finish.
There are many stories as to the origins of gorgonzola. Franco Angeli recounts the most likely in his thorough and serious book about Italian cheese, Il Grande Patrimonio. At some point in the sixth century, in a town called gorgonzola, an unnamed Lombardian innkeeper found some forgotten rounds of stracchino – a simple cheese traditionally made from the milk of cows after they return stracce (tired) from the high pastures of Valsassina. Forgotten, the rounds had developed musty coats and thin veins of mould within. The innkeeper declared his discovery delectable, and christened it erborinato, a term which probably comes from Lombardian dialect for parsley, for the green-blue marbling that ran through the newly born cheese.