Provolone cheese is a form of cow's milk cheese originally made in the southern region of Italy and is still made in Italy today. Though other areas have begun making Provolone as well, such as South America, Japan, and the United States (US), traditional Provolone is produced primarily in the northern region of Italy. Provolone is a very popular cheese, with a mild flavor and texture that make it ideal for cooking and for use in sandwiches and meat and cheese platters.
First produced in southern Italy, the name “Provolone” comes from another type of cheese called Provola, and Provolone means simply “large Provola.” Traditional Provolone is a semi-hard cheese and comes in two forms. Provolone Dulce is a somewhat sweet form that is aged for about two to three months and has a very pale yellow or white color. Provolone Piccante is typically aged for more than four months and tends to have a somewhat sharper taste. As Provolone cheese ages, it takes on a more noticeable yellow coloration along with the sharper, more pronounced flavor.
The term Provolone Val Padana is protected by the European Union and can only be used for Provolone that is regulated by the Consorzio del Formaggio Tipico Provolone. These types of traditional Provolone cheeses are often made in several different shapes, from rounded pear shapes that include a knob at the top for hanging them to longer sausage shapes that are easier for slicing. This type of Provolone cheese is produced by cheese makers in northern Italy, some of whom have been in business for hundreds of years.
In South America, a type of Provolone cheese is made and eaten with meat dishes. The cheese is typically grilled just slightly to increase the smokiness and sweetness of the flavor. This is a traditional way of eating it in regions such as Brazil and Uruguay. In the US, Provolone has been produced by American manufacturers and is typically the paler, Dulce type of cheese. This cheese has become increasingly popular over the past few decades and can often be found in major supermarkets.
A single cup (about 132 grams) of diced Provolone cheese typically has around 35g of fat and about 463 calories. The cheese can also contain a high amount of sodium, which means that it should probably not be consumed in great quantities. Provolone is high in calcium and protein, however, so it does have some dietary benefits as well.