Fonduta

When we visited Pinuccia Gaetani at her lovely cottage high in the mountains of Aosta, she made us a marvellous dish of polenta with Fonduta, using the wonderful Fontina cheese that is unique to this region. The grasses eaten by the mountain cattle give the cheese a very special flavour. The milk collected from all over the mountain pastures is turned into Fontina using an age-old recipe, and it is left to mature in deep tunnels bored right into the mountains themselves. We visited several of the cheese ‘warehouses’ and found a dank, dark, cold atmosphere, with water dripping through the rock surface and an unmistakable cheesy reek in the air.

The production of Fontina is second only to tourism as a mainstay of this region’s economy, and almost every rural smallholding keeps cows for this purpose alone. I find it amazing to think of a product that is so much part of the land as an exportable commodity. Many wonderful recipes have been created from Fontina, but the most classic of all is the silky smooth Fonduta, just as Pinuccia made it for us.

For this recipe to be a success, all the ingredients must be at room temperature before you start cooking.

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Ingredients

  • 1 lb (450 g) Fontina cheese, cubed
  • 1 tablespoon plain white flour or 1 tablespoon polenta flour
  • 7 fl oz (200 ml) cold milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 oz (100 g) butter

Method

In a deep stainless steel saucepan, mix the cheese and the flour together thoroughly. Cover with the milk and leave to soften for about 30 minutes.

Drain the cheese, egg yolks and butter into the top half of a double boiler and stir constantly until the cheese has melted. The eggs must not be allowed to scramble. As soon as the Fonduta is velvety smooth and piping hot, serve it in hot soup plates or bowls with slices of toasted or fried bread, grissini (bread sticks) or polenta. You can also pour it over cooked pasta or make it into a risotto.

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