Making Cheese with Lapo

28 Jun

One day pasta, the next day cheese. What could be better than learning from two experts? My latest lesson: pecorino and ricotta.

Lapo began by explaining the process. The milk is fresh from their sheep and needs to be heated carefully.

There is a special utensil used to stir the milk and cause the cheese bulk to form.

An expert like Lapo doesn’t need a thermometer to know when it’s ready – instead, it’s all done by touch. In the meantime, while the milk is heating, he explains how they coat cheese before storing it. He demonstrates two methods – one using ash from the previous night’s grilling with added olive oil and the second from a tomato like paste made from his garden.


The rounds are then stacked on their sides to allow air to circulate between them and are separated with walnut leaves, which impart a slight flavor.

He shows us some storage barrels, one with hay and one with the dried walnut leaves. The first is from 1798. If you look closely at the second, you can see the rounds of cheese in them.

Lapo knows the milk has reached the proper temperature when the tool stands upright unsupported.

Then the twirling action begins… fast and precise…

until the liquid separates from the cheese.

We sample the cheese at this point and it is somewhat rubbery, a bit sweet, and without much taste.

Thus far, Lapo is doing all the work, but now it is our turn to get involved. We are each given a portion of cheese and per instructions, are to hold and pinch the cheese carefully, slowly eliminating water from the cheese. Thanks, Carrol, for the great photos that follow.

This is actually harder than it sounds, as it requires much patience and pressure from only fingers. When my fingers start to hurt, I use my palms, but alas, the master catches me in the act, so back to finger pinching for me.

When Lapo is satisfied we have pushed out sufficient water, we empty our bowls for the next step.

Time to turn the cheese over…

Now we push, not pinch, with outstretched fingers.

Lapo is not only watching us, but touching our hands to ensure they are warm from our body heat. Cold hands are not good for making cheese, and he announces that our hands passed…we are all about the same proper temperature.

After several rounds of pressing, my cheese begins to have a nice fragrance, so I give my friend Larry a whiff.

This is the fruit of our efforts!

In keeping with the tradition of using everything, Lapo takes the milky water we have pushed from our cheese and begins making ricotta. The liquid is carefully poured through a strainer to remove any clumps which would burn in the reheating.

And then it is recooked, hence ricotta, until it reaches the proper consistency.

As a reward for our hard work, Paola has prepared a lovely lunch on the veranda.

First, samples of young and aged pecorino with toasted bread, small sausage bites with olives, and the class is very happy!

Then Paola treats us to Cace e Pepe, a simple pasta made with pecorino, parmegiano, and pepper.

Finally, we are treated with the ricotta made in class, topped with fig jam. Delicious.

Quite full, and content with our work, I get the class to pose for a photo reminder of the great day!

Our pecorino won’t be ready for about 10 weeks, but in the meantime, we each have a certificate to remind us of what we learned. Here’s a sample of Lapo’s Lessons:

1. Nothing can replace passion and dedication when it comes to quality, and patience is paramount.

2. Everything from the garden is better.

3. Cheese is like your body; if your body is too cold or hot, the cheese is too cold or hot, so move it.

4. Share what you make with others.

Finally, before leaving, I had to snap a picture of the setting where I not only learned to make cheese but also experienced the love and passion of carrying on traditions from generation to generation.

Grazie Lapo e Paola!




6 Responses to “Making Cheese with Lapo”

  1. John June 28, 2014 at 8:10 PM #

    Holy smokes Judy! What an incredible day. I just lived (vicariously through you) what amounts to a perfect day on earth. The only thing missing is wine making! Well done. Great pictures too.


    • blogginginitaly July 9, 2014 at 11:30 AM #

      About every day Len says, “Giovanni should be here!” Today we looked at piazza ovens and of course, Len will discuss with you when we return. xo


  2. Barbara Kaines June 28, 2014 at 8:44 PM #

    Fabulous!!!!love being there through your words. Thank you Barbara

    Sent from my iPhone



  3. Sandy Holswade June 28, 2014 at 10:05 PM #

    You are having way too much fun!! When do you and Len move permanently to Cortona?


  4. Loren June 28, 2014 at 10:09 PM #

    Fascinating and so well narrated!! I am satiated and molto contenta just reading this!!


  5. June 29, 2014 at 7:57 AM #

    Judy – this is fabulous !!!!! Really better than any food blog I’ve seen- what a great time you are having – wish we were there !!

    Sent from my iPhone



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