Prosciutto is cured and aged simply with salt, and occasionally other spices, for just a few months up to several years. This results in a rich, concentrated flavor and tender texture that doesn't require any cooking, making it suitable -- once it's thinly sliced -- for cheese trays and appetizers. Select a cheese bold enough to stand up to the full flavor of the prosciutto.
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Prosciutto has a smooth, rich flavor with a touch of saltiness. It can easily overpower milder cheeses, so it's best to select strong cheeses that can compete with the cured meat. Cheeses with a pronounced salty, sharp or nutty flavor usually pair well. Cheese texture preferences depend completely on the serving method, because thinly sliced, tender prosciutto tends to pair well with crumbly, hard and soft cheeses.
Hard cheeses that lend themselves well to slicing are suitable for a cheese tray or for stacked appetizers on picks or crackers. Salty, fresh Parmesan combines well with rich prosciutto. Adding a nutty-flavored cracker or the sharp flavor of a tart green olive or rich roasted garlic helps counteract the saltiness of the pairing. Smoked Gouda, a firm but moist cheese, complements the meaty, rich flavor of prosciutto, while nutty, fruity Gruyere helps lighten the bolder tones in the prosciutto.
Sharp-tasting goat cheeses, such as Bonne Bouche or chevre, draw out the smooth, even flavor in prosciutto without overpowering it. Many soft cheeses have a lighter flavor profile that is easily overpowered by the meat, but an herbed cheese can usually stand up to the bolder flavor. Try a dill Havarti for a combination of salty and sharp flavors with a mild undertone. Use soft cheeses as a spread on breads, crackers or panini sandwiches, layering the prosciutto on top of the cheese.
Most of the sharp and pungent dry cheeses pair well with prosciutto. Generic blue cheese, Gorgonzola and feta are readily available, but you can experiment with any of the blue-tinged crumbly varieties with great success. Dry cheeses are often paired with prosciutto in salads or sandwiches. Adding in sweet flavor, such as chewy dried figs or sweet, light-tasting melon, adds a fresh complement to this otherwise bold pairing.