The little (but potent) cheese from Piemonte.
There's something special about this small-sized cheese from Piemonte. It was supposedly invented back in the day when cheese production was rationed but instead of cutting down on produce, the dairy farmers cut down on size. The tomino is eaten 'fresco' after one day or matured at maximum for a month.
There are 11 variants made in Piemonte - Italy's most western region that borders with Alpine Switzerland and France. Rugged landscapes form foothills where truffles grow and deep reds like Barolo are bottled. Capital city Turin was once seat of the Italian Royal Savoy family, reflected in its wide, grand piazze and regal pallazzi, there's space and history in this place. And it's here that fast cars and good food reign supreme, amongst them, the little tomino - Piemonte's potent cheese.
Made from cows milk, the Talucco variant blends goat's with cow to create an even more potent type of tomino. Shaped in a disc, not more than 1cm thick and 7cm wide and looking like a mini brie, it is sometimes sold wrapped in pancetta according to one of its most favourite recipes which we'll get to in a bit.
Big Daddy Toma is a cheese from the region which is similar in texture, just a lot larger. But there are advantages to being little because here comes the 'something special' which only baby tomino can brag about.
While Tomino Fresco is soft, white and lovely with figs, breads, honey and crisp white wines, the slightly aged version holds its shape and forms a thin rind over time which goes on to serve an important purpose.
Heat the tomino up and watch the magic happen!
On a grill, pan, skillet or baked in the oven, the millimetre-thick skin becomes fundamental in the 'Tomino experience' because after a few minutes, the inside melts but goes nowhere. What happens is a foodie's idea of cheese-heaven - a soft, oozing inside bound by edible skin, just waiting to be sliced into.
Take it up a level and wrap a thin slice of pancetta or Speck around the palm-sized cheese before grilling or toasting it in a pan. At that moment, one can't decide whether the crispy, flavourful crust or the gooey inside is the best part - or maybe they're just perfect together...
There's no legend where this little cheese is concerned, no fortuitous slip in the dairy, no tempestuous weather in Puglia or love-struck Lombardian error - the Tomino is a simple cheese with most of its drama associated not with its past but with its smell. This is a pungent cheese, packing a strong aroma which intensifies as it warms. Paired beautifully with grilled summer vegetables or simple toasted ciabatta, the people of Piemonte will smother their tomino in salsa verde and bake in in the oven for 10 minutes, shave slithers of white truffle over it warm, smear the fresco version on bread or eat it 'green' with herbs or 'electric' with chillies.
Versatile as it is much loved in this region, if you see 'tomino' on the menu or find a cheese shop in Turin, make a point of trying this little delicacy - one of Italy's most prized...