The combination of cheese and pasta is almost always a safe bet, but not all types of cheese are used for the same purpose. The characteristics of each dish and the characteristics of each cheese play a big role in determining which cheese pairs best with certain pastas. Whether it's grated or part of the pasta accompaniment, used as an ingredient in a salad or an essential part of a sauce, it's good to know which cheese to choose to maximize its flavor.
Parmesan or Parmigiano Reggiano, is ideal for grating and serving with pasta to give it a more intense flavor because of its hardness. This type of cheese comes from a very specific region of Italy located between Parma, Reggio-Emilia, Bologna and Mantua.
Pecorino is a hard cheese like Parmesan but with a slightly spicy flavor that is typically used with dishes that have stronger flavors such as garlic or chili. It can also be used to add an extra bite to sauces.
On the other side of the spectrum, there's Ricotta cheese, which is low in fat and has a fairly mild flavor. Ricotta is mainly used as a pasta filling since it melts very well and has a very creamy texture.
There are different types of cheeses that can be found among the varieties that melt easily and are ideal for baked pasta dishes, stuffed pasta, and sauces. They can be selected according to their flavor and the other ingredients present.
Mascarpone cheese, for example, is a very soft textured cheese but with a strong flavor that blends perfectly. Because of this, it's typically used as a substitute for cream for making sauces, giving the dish more flavor.
There's also Gorgonzola, which is considered a blue cheese. It's also very creamy, tangy and easy to melt. It improves when combined with other ingredients--such as cream or nuts in some sauces and vegetables in others--to soften its intensity on the palate. It can also be used as a pasta filling.
It's also possible to find smoother cheeses with a strong, intense flavor such as Fontina, a cheese with a slightly sweet flavor that is often used in oven-baked dishes.
The world of cheese is filled with wonderful textures and flavors, and it's a world where the adventurous can try new combinations to make even more delicious pastas.