I can’t explain why I’m so smitten with this little goat cheese from northern Italy, but I am. I couldn’t leave it alone. Nocetto di Capra, a bloomy-rind cheese from the Lombardia region, doesn’t have the mouth-filling flavor that usually flips my switch. It’s a subtle little guy, but so unlike any goat cheese we make in this country or any other goat cheese I know for that matter.
The affineur (ager) is Arnoldi, a creamery known primarily for Taleggio and other regional specialties. Arnoldi works primarily with cow’s milk for its own production; Lombardia is not known for goat cheeses. But demand for them is rising, so Arnoldi purchases and ages selected goat cheeses that others make.
Fashioned with pasteurized milk from an indigenous goat breed—the Orobica—the two-pound Nocetto (noh-CHETT-oh) resembles a Piedmontese Robiola more than any traditional Lombardian cheese. The petite wheel measures two to three inches in height and about five inches in diameter. The creamery matures it for about three weeks before release, and it has perhaps five weeks of life remaining. As it matures en route, it will soften from the outside in, like a Camembert. To my taste, a perfect specimen will still have a touch of firmness at the core.
The bloomy rind is thin, tender and edible, with no scent of ammonia. Cut into it and you will find a semisoft off-white interior with many small openings. I love its pillowy, squishy, delicate texture; it practically evaporates on the tongue.
You have to search a bit for the aroma. I find a pleasant whisper of agaricus mushroom, a faint lactic aroma and no goatiness whatsoever. Just lovely. I can imagine that some tasters would find it bland, but I admire its clean flavors and sweet, gentle nature. Nocetto di Capra has enough acidity and salt to keep me coming back for another taste, but not too much of either.
Pair it with a delicate, fragrant white wine like an Arneis, Gavi or Pinot Grigio or a light-bodied lightly chilled red wine. Look for Nocetto di Capra at Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco, Cheese Board in Berkeley and Sunshine Foods in St. Helena.
Iris Castrejon (left) and Georgette Nelson make a fashion statement in their Planet Cheese tees, don’t you think? These cheese-team employees of Greenleaf, a San Francisco distributor, purchased their tees to support the California Artisan Cheese Guild. Order your own tee here. All profits benefit CACG.
If there’s anything you want to know about yogurt—how to make it, how to use it, what to buy, why yours failed—come see me at one of the following venues. What I don’t know I can find out.
Tuesday, May 19
6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Sample one of my favorite yogurt recipes.
Saturday May 23
8 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Napa Farmers’ Market
1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
1786 Fourth Street
The Pasta Shop will prepare several recipes from my book, for sampling and for sale.