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Italian hard cheese from Emilia Romagna

Marco Pellegrini explains how Fossa cheese is made - Italian hard cheese from Emilia Romagna
Marco Pellegrini explains how Fossa cheese is made

Italian hard cheese from Emilia Romagna

From the region around Sogliano al Rubicone comes an Italian hard cheese. Fossa cheese is a special cheese, which owes its name to the way it is made. We are interested in the Slow Food Emilia Romagna in the surroundings of Cesenatico. If we have the opportunity on our trips to taste regional food, take a look behind the scenes of the producers or get to know new specialties, we always do it.


In doing so, we not only get to know new dishes, ingredients and production methods, but above all the people who deal with them, their way of life and the things they do in everyday life. For us, this is a way to look into strange cooking pots, and an excellent opportunity to get in touch with our hosts and their way of live. This is how we get to know our travel destinations and their people. In addition we discover the local culinary delicacies.

In the hinterland of Cesenatico, Italian hard cheese is produced
In the hinterland of Cesenatico

Slow Food Emilia Romagna

One trend that we came across in our research is the Slow Food movementthat originated in Italy. This movement is about preserving regional cuisine and local and traditional production of local animal and plant products. “Good, clean and fair” should be the products that belong to this new gastronomy. Traditional production methods should be continued and the taste of regional dishes should be maintained. It does not always have to be tasty for everyone. As is well known, one can argue about taste. But that's the way it should be, because the Slow Food Movement is about protecting regional peculiarities in food and protecting them from destruction.

Slow food is a very exciting approach, which we encounter again and again in our travels, and which has already given us many interesting insights into the food and the lives of the local people. It was no different in Emilia Romagna in Italy. Here we were lucky to find out more about the Fossa cheese, an Italian specialty cheese from the hinterland of Cesenatico.

Slow Food from Emilia Romagna - Italian hard cheese to taste
Sheep, goat or cow's milk cheese becomes Fossa cheese - slow food from Emilia Romagna

Fossa cheese - Italian hard cheese from Sogliano al Rubicone

Before our visit to Marco Pellegrini in Sogliano al Rubicone we had never heard of Fossa cheese. This Italian hard cheese is only produced in the town of Sogliano al Rubicone in the hills behind Cesenatico and in the valleys of Rubicone and Marecchia on the border of Emilia Romagna and the Marche region. That is, the cheese is actually made by the farmer himself. It is made from goat, sheep or cow's milk. The farmer brings his cheese wheels in the period from August 16th to September 1st to a fossa. These are pits dug into the rocks in the village of Sogliano. Many pits date probably back to the Middle Ages. How long Fossa cheese is produced, is not known. This type of cheese making was first mentioned in the 15th century.

This is where fossa cheese is made
Fossa cheese ripens in the pit

This is how Fossa cheese is made

The pits in which the cheese matures and where it gets its particularly intense taste can have different shapes and sizes. Marco Pellegrini, who discovered some of the oldest fossa pits on his property and makes them available to the surrounding farmers, shows us one of them that was dug into a cave below his house. It measures approximately two meters in diameter at the base and is approximately three meters high. “Before the farmers deliver their cheese, we have to clean the fossa. We used to do that with straw that we lit in the pits. We removed the residual moisture in the pit and sterilized it against germs that could prevent normal fermentation of the cheese, ”he explains. "Today we are cleaning the walls of the fossa with fire."

"It takes us one day to prepare the fossa for the cheese," says Marco Pellegrini, whose father started producing the fossa after he discovered the pits. Then the walls of the tuff pit are lined with a layer of straw about ten centimeters thick. A wooden pallet is placed on the bottom of the pit, through which the fat from the cheese can drip into a hollow underneath.

Pit for the cheese
Here the cheese ripens for several months

The farmers pick up their cheese again at the end of November

The local farmers hand in their cheese to Marco at the end of August. The latter packs the cheese wheels in cotton cloths, writes the weight of the cheese and an identification number for the owner on it and stacks the cheese packages on top of each other. The Fosse will be closed on September 1st and will not be opened until about three months later. During this time, the cheese loses fat and ferments in the pits. It loses weight and gains its distinctive taste and fragrance as "formaggio di fossa", as fossa cheese. It is only at the end of November and beginning of December that the cheese owners can pick up their bags again and get back a strong-smelling cheese that has lost its original round shape due to storage in the fossa and has taken on an irregular shape. The firmness of the cheese can be hard or semi-hard, its color is straw yellow.

Marco Pellegrini at the fossa model
Marco Pellegrini at the fossa model

Researchers have discovered that Fossa cheese is healthy, because it contains no pathogenic germs, that are harmful to health. Italian hard cheese is easier to digest, because it contains bacteria, that split fats and that are responsible for the taste and pungent odor typical of Fossa cheese.

This is how Italian hard cheese from Rubicone tastes

How did the Fossa cheese taste? It is more intense than normal cheese. You can imagine a Pecorino with racy taste, which is stronger than the cheese we know. It goes very well with dry wine and bread and ham and can be served with antipasti. Marco serves it with a fig chutney, which harmonizes perfectly with the strong taste of the cheese. The combination of spicy cheese and sweet chutney tastes perfect for me. Without a side dish it is a bit too dominating for my taste, but others may prefer just that.

Here is Slow Food Emilia Romagna
Marco Pellegrini explains the fossa production in the in-house museum. Here is Slow Food Emilia Romagna.

Where to get the Fossa cheese in the Cesenatico area?

We drive from Cesenatico and need about an hour to get here. By the way, it is best to take a car into the mountains, because the higher we get, the better the views of the hills, where villages and castles sit like eagle nests on top of the mountain peaks. In Sogliano al Rubicone there are pit cheese makers that you can visit. They usually run their business on a part-time basis and are not always on site. Therefore, your best bet is to arrange a visit to ensure, that you meet someone on the spot. We visited Marco Pellegrini in the

Fossa Pellegrini
Via Le Greppe n. 14
Tel./Fax. 0541/948542, 0541/948409

Find more information on www.formaggiodifossa.it

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In Sogliano al Rubicone there are also other fossas:

Antiche Fosse
Via Pascole n. 8
Tel. n/a

Casa del Formaggio di Fossa
Via XX Settembre n. 2
Tel./Fax: 0541/948556, Mobile: 338/4943398

Fossa Bianoclina
Via Rontagnano-Biancolino n. 86
Tel: 0541/940017

Fossa Brandinelli
Via XX Settembre n. 2/b
Tel./Fax. 0541/948068, Mobile 333/6817248

Fosse Tera sas
Via XX Settembre n. 14
Tel. n/a

Fosse venturi
Via Roma n. 67
Tel. n/a

Want even more about Slow Food from Emilia Romagna Find out, then visit Yummy Travel. Jessica has put together quite a few tips for slow food lovers.

Fossa cheese
Click on the photo and pin "Fossa Cheese" on Pinterest

Discover more travel tips for trips to savor on our blog TravelWorldOnline.

Source: own research on site. We thank the Cesenatico Bella Vita Union, which hosted us and organized the Slow Food Emilia Romagna Blog Tour, in cooperation with 21 grammy.

Text: © Copyright Monika Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline
Photos: © Copyright Monika Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline
Video: © Copyright Petar Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline

  1. […] The first goal of our trip is an exceptional cheese factory. Fossa cheese is produced in Sogliano al Rubicone. Only in this place! It is a tradition that is centuries old. Fossa cheese is a […]

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