Formaggio di Fossa, a typical aged cheese and an amazing delicacy

The two typical Formaggio di Fossa that boast of this name are: Sogliano’s Formaggio di Fossa, considered the most traditional one, and the most recent of Talamello.

Formaggio di Fossa originates from ancient legends dating back to 1400, when the troops of Alfonso of Aragon, son of the King of Naples, took refuge at Malatesta (historical family of Forlì), after being defeated by the French. Not being able to feed the troops of the refugee, the lords of Forli, let the soldiers rob the farmers. In this way, farmers learned to hide their food in underground pits. This is the legend, but reality tells of a practical need, confirmed by the memory of some old man who transformed the overproduction of milk into cheese then stored in a "fossa", a pit dug into the ground. Sogliano sul Rubicone and Talamello have always been traditional areas of cheese production and in the summer, it was normal to have overproductions of milk that, once transformed into cheese, were preserved in places characterized by very good condition without wither: the grain pits. The same ones that give the name to this cheese, which is now considered a delicacy. About three meters deep, the pit must have at least ten years of life, because only after this period the pit develops inside the bacteria necessary to transforming a simple cheese in a real delicacy. The two typical Formaggio di Fossa that boast of this name are: Sogliano’s Formaggio di Fossa, considered the most traditional one, and the most recent of Talamello.

Formaggio di Fossa from Sogliano sul Rubicone is definitely the oldest, characterized by ancient processes of ripening the cheese in special underground pits that date back in the past, while Talamello’s Formaggio di Fossa has more recent orgins. In both cases, we are facing great quality products with their own differences depending on the way of ripening. The cheese that originates in Sogliano has a strong, decided taste, mostly tending to spicy, with a relatively clear, an overwhelming scent and rich smell.

The “Amber of Talamello”, as the poet Tonino Guerra liked to call it, has, instead, a soft colour, ranging from pale yellow to amber and it tastes sweet to spicy and braided a milder and delicate aroma.

The scent that the two cheeses have in common is a nice treat for fans, which perceive hints of undergrowth, truffles, mushrooms, sulphur, musk and wood with different variations due to milk type - cow and/or goat - and the position inside the pit. Its preparation is a ritual. After being cleaned and burning straw inside to sterilize the area, the pits are covered with straw retained by rods to prevent contact of the cheese with the walls of the tuff pit. On the bottom, planks of wood are the basic forms of cheese that, once cleaned and placed in cotton bags with its weight, date and name of its owner, are arranged in order of right positioning of cheese owners themselves. Buried in August, the cheese are removed from the pit at the end of November: in Talamello it’s between 5th and 12nd, while in Sogliano between 18th and 26th of November.

With this particular cheese, you must pair red or dessert wines. The choices are different. Simple red wines, good body or important reds, such as Amarone, Brunello, Sagrantino or Aglianico