Packed with the bite of black peppercorns, this Black Pepper Bellavitano is one snappy cheese. Though the exterior has some spice, the rich, fruity notes of the interior paste provide balance. Inside, the cheese has a slightly crystalline texture due to its extended maturation, making it a nice option for nibbling. It holds its own when paired with heavy flavors, but isn’t too strong that you can’t snack on it solo.
To create Bellavitano, cheesemakers at fourth-generation Wisconsin company Sartori Cheese add cultures and rennet to heated cow’s milk, then hand-salt the cut curds and press them in hoops. The newly formed wheels are placed in a warm room to encourage more whey to escape. After that, wheels are trimmed by hand, bathed in brine to encourage rind formation, and left in a curing room to mature further. For this variety, the final stage involves hand-coating the wheels with a blend of coarse black pepper, though Sartori offers a wide range of other coatings as well.
With its sharp flavor, this cheese marries nicely with meat; try it with roast beef or melted atop a flame-grilled burger. Those opting for something less carnivorous might prefer a sophisticated cacio e pepe. Drink pairings come easy with this one. For wines, we love Black Pepper Bellavitano with Chianti, lighter reds, and even Chardonnay; and for beer, something easy to sip like an American pale ale or a Belgian Trappist ale.