What is Gorgonzola?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Gorgonzola is a famous blue cheese originating in Italy, with a distinctive smell which many liken to old shoes. It is part of an illustrious family of blue cheeses, which are formed when ambient molds infiltrate curing cheeses. Today, it is inoculated directly with the mold spores, to guarantee that the cheese is colonized by the right mold. The cheese comes in a young and sweet variation and a much more robust aged version, both of which are widely enjoyed.

Blue cheese, which pairs well with walnuts.
Blue cheese, which pairs well with walnuts.

This cheese has been made outside of Milan since the 8th century, when it was hung in large caves to ripen. It is not known when the Penicillin glaucum mold first began colonizing the cheese, but it is now an integral part of the Gorgonzola. Many cheese makers around the world have attempted to imitate this variety, but have had little success because they are unable to replicate the balance of molds found in ripening caves for Gorgonzola.

Crackers, which are often served with Gorgonzola.
Crackers, which are often served with Gorgonzola.

Gorgonzola has a very distinctive look, with prime specimens being a creamy yellow in color, richly veined with blue green mold. A truly moldy piece will be deeply mottled, with the mold radiating out from the center of the cheese. It also comes in a paler white version, which is not as aged. Traditionally, Gorgonzola is made with raw cow's milk, although pasteurized and sheep's milk versions of the cheese are also available.

The cheese-making process begins by warming milk with rennet and cultures so that it separates out into curds. The curds of the cheese are inoculated with mold to ensure an even spread, and then packed tightly into molds. These molds are pressed and drained, and then the cheese is allowed to age. Cheese aged for approximately three months is called Gorgonzola Dolce, or sweet Gorgonzola, and in addition to being sweeter it has a creamy texture and a much milder flavor. This variety is often used as a spread on breads or crackers, and tends to be less odorous than older cheeses.

Gorgonzola which is allowed to age six months or more is known as Gorgonzola Piccante, or Mountain Gorgonzola. This cheese is more flaky and crumbly in texture, and has a much more aggressive flavor. The cheese tends to be spicy, with a characteristic bite that is delicious when added to salads and other dishes in need of extra zest.

Both versions are delicious and available at any reputable market. When looking for the cheese, determine how old you want it to be, looking for paler cheese if you are wanting a sweet Gorgonzola, and darker versions if you want a cheese with more bite. Gorgonzola should not be brown in appearance ever, and this is an indication that the cheese has gone bad.

A particular balance of molds, found in the ripening caves, gives Gorgonzola cheese it's distinct flavor.
A particular balance of molds, found in the ripening caves, gives Gorgonzola cheese it's distinct flavor.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Put some olive oil (half cup or so) in a glass jar, add three or four cloves of minced garlic, a half teaspoon of salt, two tablespoons red wine vinegar, shake and let stand for few hours until the flavors blend. Use this dressing on romaine lettuce sprinkled with gorgonzola cheese. It is so good.

I really like gorgonzola cheese and have been thinking of making a large order from one of the premium cheese makers. Can anyone recommend a brand and give me an idea of what it might cost?
One of my favorite fast, work night dinners is to make some pasta with a gorgonzola cream sauce. I add whatever meat of veggies I have around and make a really tasty meal in about 25 minutes.

The sauce is basically just white wine, cream (or half and half if you are concerned about calories), the cheese and some spices. It cooks up in minutes and tastes great over pasta.

Gorgonzola is one of my favorite kinds of cheeses. The flavor is so strong and distinct, but the texture is creamy and satisfying the way you want from a cheese.

One of my favorite ways to use it that I think a lot of people don't think of is to put it on top of beef stroganoff. The sharp cheese really complements the rich sauce well.


I've eaten salads with Gorgonzola crumbled on them before, but I have to say my favorite way to eat it is risotto with Gorgonzola. Risotto is usually pretty mild in flavor, but the Gorgonzola really adds and extra spiciness to it.


@starrynight - I'm actually not entirely sure about that. I've heard conflicting things from different people about it. Some people say you should be fine, and other say you should avoid it. Still other people say that it depends on how sensitive you are.

Honestly, that sounds like a question you should ask your doctor before you think about trying any kind of blue cheese. You could also consult an allergist or maybe go for some allergy testing (if you haven't already.)


@Pharoah - That is interesting. So, should people that are allergic to penicillin avoid eating Gorgonzola? Does anyone know? I'm allergic to penicillin, and I've never had Gorgonzola, and now I'm a little scared to try it.


@anon67111 - I'm jealous, that sounds great. I can buy Gorgonzola and other good cheese where I live, but it's a little pricey for me. I would love to have a friend that could get samples of good cheese very easily.

Anyway, fun fact about Gorgonzola cheese: the mold they use to make it is the same kind of mold that is used to make penicillin. It's amazing to me that the same mold can be used to make a cheese, as well as an antibiotic that's saved tons of lives over the years.

@anamur-- It's not safe for pregnant women to eat any kind of blue cheese because some blue cheeses contain a bacteria called listeria. It can lead to an infection called listeriosis.

Pregnant women are at greater risk because their immune system is not as strong, so it's best for them to stay away from these cheeses. If this infection does develop in a pregnant woman, it can increase the risk for miscarriage. So your wife will have to ignore this craving unfortunately!

It's kind of odd that she's craving it. When my wife was pregnant, most cheeses would give her nausea. And gorgonzola is such a smelly cheese, it's hard to deal with that smell even when someone is not pregnant.


@gravois-- I'm exactly the opposite. I like my gorgonzola very simple with some crackers, maybe as a topping for prosciutto.

I can't combine this cheese with any rich foods like meat or cream. It's just too much for me, too heavy.

When I eat gorgonzola, I like concentrating just on the flavors of the cheese. If I combine it with too many foods or rich foods, I can't quite tell the flavors in the gorgonzola. I think gorgonzola is a delicacy and if possible, it should be enjoyed alone. Gorgonzola is kind of like caviar for me, it's a very special cheese.


I'm three months pregnant and I'm constantly craving blue cheeses, especially gorgonzola. Is it safe for me to consume some gorgonzola during pregnancy?


@vigilant - I couldn't agree more. Gorgonzola makes a wonderful accompaniment to beef. There is a fabulous steak house in my town that serves their steak with a Gorgonzola cream sauce that is like heaven on earth. I know some people say that heavy sauces like these ruin the flavor of the meat, but I definitely prefer them to tangy, tomato based steak sauces.


I like to sprinkle Gorgonzola on top of beef stroganoff. I think the sharp cheese offers a wonderful contrast to the rich beef and the creamy sauce.


On special occasions I meet a friend in New York City. She is fortunate to work in the import trade where samples of the best are easily obtained.

Gorgonzola Dulce, focaccia bread with olive oil and a red table wine. Add in a gorgeous spring day for a memory to last a lifetime.


I like Gorgonzola better than life itself!



The gorgonzola sold in the UK is often the Dolcelatte variety. Do a little research and you'll find it. -- Rabelais11


hi just wondering why in the UK the gorgonzola dolche you find in supermarkets is nothing like the stuff from real cheese shops? i mean nothing like it - as if they were two different cheeses.

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