Cheese lovers rejoice, San Carlo have gone mad for formaggio

Award-winning, family run Italian restaurant group, San Carlo, have teamed up with Grana Padano this month to introduce three very special, extra cheesy dishes. These include giant gnocco with freshly grated black truffle, Gorgonzola covered gnocci served in an edible basket made completely out of cheese and a rather special mushroom risotto served at the table in a giant, hollowed out wheel of Grana Padano.

The decadently cheesy menu offers the perfect comfort food for chilly autumn days and will be available at all 17 San Carlo venues across the UK from the end of October to the end of November.

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Giant Gnocco with black truffle

Grana Padano is one of Italy’s most famous hard cheeses and is only produced throughout the Po Valley region in northern Italy which includes Lombardy, Piedmont, Trentino and Veneto.

Amazingly, the original recipe can be traced back as far as 1135 when the Cistercian monks of Chiaravalle Abbey, a few kilometres south of Milan, came up with a way to preserve the surplus milk produced by their cows. It subsequently became known as formaggio di grana, or grainy cheese, thanks to its compact and granular texture.

In the 1950’s, local dairy owners and producers signed up to a delegation which agreed to establish some more formal production guidelines and the cheese was  eventually granted Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status in 1996.

Made from unpasteurised, semi-skimmed milk only sourced from the area of production, the huge wheels of Grana Padano are matured from between nine to 24 months; the older the cheese, the more pronounced, savoury and complex the flavours become and the texture becomes more crumbly.

If the wheels pass expert inspection, they will be fire branded with a mark of quality and embossed with diamonds – no, not the jewels, small diamond shaped holes which mark the unmistakable brand.

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Grana Padano with diamonds on the rind

Now you know a little more about the cheese itself, here’s what San Carlo are doing with it this month:

Winter Risotto ai Funghi Porcini – This is a richly luxurious and comforting risotto, made with porcini mushrooms, black autumn truffle and a splash of Prosecco. Perfect for two, it is served theatrically at the table in a wheel of Grana Padano cheese. 

20171101 Grana Padano San Carlo Risotto
Mushroom risotto is served at the table in a wheel of cheese

Gnocco Croccante – These are not gnocci as you know them. These are giant quennelles gnocchi with a crispy polenta coating, served on a rich yellow sauce made from Grana Padano, egg yolk and topped with fresh black truffle. 

20171101 Grana Padano San Carlo Gnocci
Gnocci with gorgonzola sauce

Gnocchi Gorgonzola in a Cheese Basket – This dish is like an exercise in just how much cheese is possible to put in one dish. Here, gnocchi, bathed in a Gorgonzola sauce, is served an edible basket made purely from Grana Padano cheese and breadcrumbs.

So if you love cheese and have a fondness for Italian food, you need to get over to San Carlo this month. Their new relationship with Grana Padano is the greatest Italian partnership since Mario and Luigi.

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