Cheese 101

Cheese Varieties

A primer on the basic varieties, plus a few delicious examples of each type.

By Jane Kirby
CheeseFrances Janisch

Soft and Semisoft Cheeses

Aged one week to three months, these are good melting cheeses. Soft cheeses in this group have a thin, velvety rind and ripen from the outside in. Examples include:

This is a “smelly” cheese, with an aroma much more potent than its nutty, salty, beery flavor. It yields to the touch, but if it is sunken in the center it is overripe and too strong. Look for Livarot made by Graindorge or Levasseur.

Food pairings: Apples, walnuts.
Drink pairings: Cabernet Sauvignon, cider, brandy, beer.
Similar cheeses: French Pont-l’Eveque or Reblochon, Italian Taleggio.

Brie de Meaux is the king of cheese―benign, creamy, slightly sour.

Food pairings: Sweet pickles, baguettes.
Drink pairings: Red Burgundy, Merlot.
Similar cheeses: Italian Toma or Paglia-style cheese, French Camembert.

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The pesto can be made up to 1 day in advance. Cover it with a thin layer of oil to prevent the mint from browning, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.