PDO Formaggio di Fossa cheese is a fairly common delicacy in the Romagna region, especially in the province of Forlì-Cesena and the Rimini area (Sant’Agata Feltria, Talamello and Mondaino). This special cheese is made in other towns too, from the Ravenna area to certain municipalities in the Bologna province, and even in several provinces in the Marche region.
The tradition of ageing cheese in pits in the areas bordering the Romagna and Marche regions dates back to Medieval times. In order to preserve and protect the cheese from potential pillaging, peasants began to secure the cheese inside pits dug out of sandstone. This method would later become a fully-fledged technique, which was first documented in the fourteenth century.
Despite the passing of time, the technique used to make pit cheese has stayed true to tradition. Firstly, curd made from sheep or cow's milk, or a mixture of the two, is pressed and salted, then left to ripen for 60 to 240 days. The mature cheese is then placed inside the pits, which have been sanitised with fire and smoke and cladded in a layer of straw, where it will remain for 80 to 100 days.
As a result of this unusual ripening process, pit cheese takes on highly distinctive woody, truffle and musky aromas. If you're looking for an opportunity to sample all these nuances of flavour in the very place where this cheese comes from, head to the Pit Cheese Festival in Sogliano al Rubicone, which takes place every year between November and December.
Whilst you’re in Sogliano, why not pay a visit to the Museo del formaggio di fossa Fossa Pellegrini museum, and see what it's like to lower yourself down into a freshly opened pit and immerse yourself in the cheese’s pungent aroma as it reaches the end of its ripening process.
The flavour of PDO Formaggio di Fossa cheese is not easy to put in words: it can range from anything from mild to intense, to slightly spicy to bitter tasting, depending on the milk used and the pits it is aged in. The best way to experience all these flavours is to pair the cheese with honey, fresh or dried fruit, or with savor, a preserve made with grape must and fruit. It also works wonderfully to add extra flavour to pasta dishes and gratins.