Today's tip

Here are a few tips and comments on the cheeses I use the most.

In all my baked pastas, I use cheeses in abundance and variety, both for flavor and texture. Here are a few tips and comments on the cheeses I use the most. But there are many others that are suitable for baked pastas. Try different cheeses, observe their flavor and melting qualities, and incorporate the ones you like into your cooking. A freshly grated hard cheese such as Grana Padano is essential to both fillings and toppings. If I’m using a semi-hard cheese for a topping, I always put some Grana Padano over it to keep the other cheese from becoming leathery.

The melting varieties of semi-hard cheeses:

Fontina: authentic Italian fontina d’Aosta is one of the great melting cheeses.

Low-moisture mozzarella (the compact kind, that is perhaps the most widely melted cheese in this country): it becomes rubbery when melted as a topping. Much of it isn’t good but there are some good varieties available (including small American artisanal cheese makers). Make sure to check the fat content and buy whole-milk mozzarella.

Muenster: it’s creamy, has a pleasant mild flavor, and melts nicely, though I never use it as a topping by itself.

Ricotta: I use it in fillings for flavor and creaminess. If you can get real fresh ricotta, use it but don’t drain it, you want the moisture in these dishes. Otherwise, packaged ricotta is fine in baked dishes.