Bel Paese, meaning ‘beautiful country’ in Italian, is a semi-soft cheese from the Lombardy region. It was formulated by Egidio Galbani in 1906 who wanted to invent a product that would compete with French Alpine cheeses. The name is derived from a book by Abbot Antonio Stoppani “Il Bel Paese”, published in 1873.
The cheese has a milky aroma infused with a mild buttery flavour. The taste can be compared with Mozzarella and St. Paulin. The pale yellow cheese may occasionally be riddled with “eyes”. The cheese is hard to spread but soft enough to slice. It is wrapped in a waxed, foil or plastic rind.
Bel Paese takes 6 to 8 weeks to mature and comes in several different sizes from small buttons to large 5lb wheels. An original Bel Paese can be identified by a map of Italy and a picture of Antonio Stoppani on the label of the cheese. The American version has a map of United States on the label.
The Italian cheese goes well with fruits like apples, pears and figs. As it has good melting capacity, it is often used in casseroles, hot Panini, focaccio or on a pizza. It can be eaten with fruity wines, such as dry red or white.