The Italian Cheese Giada De Laurentiis Calls Underappreciated - Exclusive

There's no denying that we love Italian food here in the United States. It's one of the most ubiquitous foreign cuisines you'll find splashed all over the country. However, despite its far-reaching influence, that doesn't mean most of the country has a good, deep understanding of authentic Italian food and ingredients. Fettuccine Alfredo, chicken Parmesan, and penne alla vodka are just a few examples of perpetually popular Italian-American dishes prevalent on almost any stateside trattoria menu that would be hard or even impossible to find anywhere in Italy. And despite what dish you're dining on, there's a near-guaranteed chance that it's smothered in one of the two Italian cheeses that reign supreme in the United States, parmesan or mozzarella.

Of course, any true foodie knows that this is just scratching the surface of the Italian cheese tradition, which dates back centuries. There are nearly 500 different kinds of commercially recognized cheese varieties in Italy, and your pastas, pizzas, and charcuterie boards are just begging you to try them all. And if you're looking for some inspiration on your next trip to the grocery store (or better yet, specialty shop), we spoke to one of the reigning experts on all things Italian food and products, Giada De Laurentiis.

In an exclusive interview with Tasting Table, the Roman native and celebrity chef revealed what she thinks is one of the most unappreciated Italian cheeses out there and her favorite dish to enjoy it with.

Giada De Laurentiis says you should be crumbling ricotta salata on your culinary creations

Of all the Italian cheeses waiting to adorn our pastas, salads, roasted vegetables, and more, Giada De Laurentiis says ricotta salata is her favorite. This cheese is related to the ricotta you're likely already familiar with, but with a twist. It's made from sheep's milk instead of cow's, and the whey is pressed, salted, and aged for several months. As a result, it's got a saltier bite to it than regular ricotta, and a lot less moisture. So it's much more suitable for grating and crumbling than whipping and spreading.

Think of ricotta salata as the new best friend to all of your Italian-inspired dishes in need of some cheesy sprinkles. "I love to put it over top grilled radicchio," says De Laurentiis. But don't stop there. Let ricotta salata's tangy taste complement your next pesto pasta, or batch of roasted asparagus. Crumble it over a big bowl of greens with a balsamic vinaigrette and take your side salad to another level. Or brighten up your breakfast by adding ricotta salata to an omelet with other Italian favorites like sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, fresh herbs, or even prosciutto to really bring out the cured flavors. There are so many delicious possibilities it's almost hard to choose.