Visit to an Italian Provolone Factory (+ Recipes)

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This is the 2nd of four cheese producing factories that I visited on my trip to Italy with Sam’s Club cheese buyers:  Auricchio, one of the best-selling Provolone producers in the world.  This cheese business is crazy stuff.  SO much going on in these factories… I’m telling ya, you’d be amazed.  Provolone is a whole-milk cow cheese.  15 milk trucks a day deliver 400 tons of milk, which in turn makes 40 tons of cheese.  Provolone is a semi-hard cheese with taste varying greatly from Provolone Piccante (sharp) to Provolone Dolce (sweet).  The sharp provolone is made only by hand.  The process was fun to watch.  One guy gets the cheese all nice and smooth by folding it over and over and rounding it into a big ball.

Then he calls his buddy over and says, “Hey, I’ll buy you a glass of Chianti after work if you help me roll this into a big, long cylinder shape.”

Together, they pick up the cheese and place it into a metal cannister, which will help it to keep its shape.

Isn’t that amazing?  They do this all day long… 6.5 hour shifts/6 days a week doing exactly what you see here.  I’ve been complaining about my arms lately, but if I worked their job I don’t think I’d have any worries (good workout!)   The cannisters are transferred to a big machine that will dip a whole bunch of them into cool water (to harden the form), then they’re dipped in warmer water, where the cheese will slide out and go into a brine for 20 days.

To make sharp provolone, it is aged for a minimum of 4 months.  There is aging provolone all over their company, from floor to ceiling, in all different shapes and sizes.

Yeah, even cheese that is this big.  What the heck they do with this, I have no idea.

This was interesting- a giant bell… made out of provolone, painted/decorated with food-safe paint & with “Auricchio” boldly emblazoned on all sides.  When I asked what they use these 100 pound cheese bells for, I was told that they sell 3,000 per year.  Apparently, they’re popular to display as a table decoration for holidays in Italy.  And then people eat them, of course.  Hmmm.

Lots of different machines cut the provolone into all different shapes for packaging.

Sam’s already carries the Sharp variety of Provolone in their club stores, but they have plans to unveil a new product (hopefully by the end of the summer and in time for fall holidays).  It’s called Le Provolizie (a sweet variety of provolone), and this is the cheese that I fell in love with on this trip!  The product below is a terra cotta baking dish with a disc of provolizie inside.  Put the dish in the oven for a few minutes, and the mild, sweet cheese comes out all melted and gooey (similar to the way that brie melts when baked).  The product pictured serves 2 people.  When I sat in on the business meeting that discussed this product, I piped up and shared my opinion that I thought since Sam’s was a club store and tends to sell items that are in large/bulk portions, the dish should be bigger and serve more people.  They listened to me… so hopefully that’s the product we’ll see- a larger dish of melted cheese that feeds 6 or 8 people- when this makes its way into into Sam’s Club stores in a few months!  I’ll keep you posted & will make it and share it on my blog when the time comes.

After the tour, Mr. Auricchio himself showed us his favorite place to eat lunch (one of those restaurants in Italy that you would never, ever find on your own as a tourist).    Mr. Auricchio is a man full of life and personality.  He sat at the head of the table and had our full attention with his stories and gregarious nature.

He asked the restaurant to make us tortelli (ravioli) stuffed with Auricchio’s sweet provolone.  They complied.  We had a lot of pasta while in Italy.  None of it had sauce.  None of it needed any.  This pasta was sauteed in butter with a little bit of sage.  And it was perfect.

I hope you enjoyed seeing the process of making provolone.  We tasted a lot of it on the trip and I’ve purchased the sharp variety of Auricchio at Sam’s Club since I’ve returned.  The sharp variety is just that… it has a strong, sharp flavor, and a little of it goes a long way.  I think you really have to be a fan of Provolone to enjoy the sharp on its own, but it’s fabulous when it’s incorporated into recipes.   I love the stuff myself.  I’ve purchased competitor brands of provolone in the U.S. before, and I have to say that they really can’t compare.  They either have very little flavor or are too much over-the-top with the strong flavor.  Sam’s is transitioning from carrying a domestic sharp Auricchio Provolone to the Imported Auricchio (a little more mild, well-rounded cheese) that we had on this trip.  The imported variety is one that you can confidently place on a cheese platter & it won’t be too strong or stinky for your guests.  I look forward to that as well as Sam’s Club’s release of the sweet variety that I discussed above… that will be one to celebrate!

Other Italy posts you might enjoy:
Searching for the Best Cheeses in Italy
Visit to an Italian Gorgonzola Factory

My favorite recipes that use provolone cheese (click pictures to view recipe):

Next up:  Asiago!

Disclaimer: I’m currently under contract with Sam’s Club to write about my experience with visiting cheese companies in Italy. Honest opinions and observations are shared.

Lori Lange of Recipe Girl

Meet The Author: Lori Lange

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  • cecillia wrote:

    dear lori

    me and my husband will be visiting crema in 1week time and happened to be where auricchio provole cheese is making. i am a foodies, provolone lovers and i am dying to see this factory. can you spare to me details where and how do i get to that factory? or is there any tour that can take me to the factory?

    appreciated for your time and answer

    cecilia xx

    • Lori Lange wrote:

      Hi Cecilia,

      Wish I could help. I was there with the manufacturers, and it was a few years back. I don’t know if they give public tours or not. Good luck!

  • Geoff wrote:

    Provolone is one of my favorite cheeses, Here in Apache Junction, funny things regarding Provolone. I buy one pound from one store and it tastes like sharp chedder. I buy one pound from another store and it tastes mild with a hint of smoky flavor (by far my favorite). Now how in the world can the very same name of cheese taste so different, Is someone trying to play games with me, or can Provolone be called the same and taste so different ??

    It is about $10.00 USD a pound (avd.) here, Id expect some consistency for such a price ??

  • Lauri wrote:

    I have been searching for this cheese! We fell in love with it and now we can’t find it.
    So glad I found this post!
    Thank you

  • Ellen wrote:

    This Provolone cheese they make today is nothing like the Provolone that they used to make years ago. My mother knew an italian man who used to import Provolone directly from Italy and he said that when the Provolone arrived, he would cut every piece open and if the oil didn’t run out…he would send it back to Italy. Now days, you NEVER see oil run out unless it’s made by a very small company who KNOWS how to make real Provolone.

  • ValerieF wrote:

    I’m soooo happy I found these posts.
    I’m visiting Italy the end of the month, wish I could go check out a cheese factory. I’m sure I’ll eat enough amazing pasta and cheeses to keep me happy though 🙂

    Also, I always get depressed about grocery store cheese in the US, it’s just so plasticy. My parents are members of Sam’s club, so I’ll have to go there and buy real cheese and not get depressed. (I live in Holland, so I’m used to real (good) cheese all the time, which explains my sadness about US cheeses, I guess…)

  • megan wrote:

    What a great post. I loved seeing all that cheese. Especially the huge logs!
    I’ll keep an eye out for that Prozolizie. It looks like a winner!

  • Kay wrote:

    Hi Lori.

    I love the tours of the cheese factories! It’s fun to see how they are mass produced.

    Is that restaurant in Rome by chance? It has the same “look” as a quaint little place I ate in Rome 2 years ago.

  • The House Mouse wrote:

    I loved reading your article. It was so natural and genuine, something I rarely see in cheese reporting (as a cheese blogger, that’s saying alot) I look forward to reading more posts in the future.

  • Posti4 wrote:

    I really love all the cheese tours you have been posting. I missed the part on how you ended up with Sam’s Club for this cheese vacation. Would you mind telling me where I can find that blog? Thanks

  • Janet wrote:

    Absolutely loving all of this fabulous info on the cheeses, straight from the source! I agree, red sauce is tasty but I prefer my pasta dressed simply. I want to taste the delicious pasta not a red sauce all of the time.

    Question: I see the gentlemen wear masks, yet they only cover their chins, not their noses or mouths, and I don’t see any beards. There is a lot of hair on those arms though! I know it sounds gross, but doesn’t the arm hair get into the cheese? What would the masks be for?

    • Lori Lange wrote:

      @Janet, Lol! I’m sure their masks are probably “supposed” to be over their faces, don’t you think? Maybe they were aware of the cameras & wanted to look good 🙂 Arm hair… now that’s a good point. Not sure about that one! In most of the cheese companies, arms were covered.