Black pepper is a seasoning that is found in almost every kitchen in the world. Along with its counterpart, salt, it is in virtually every recipe whether prepared at home or at your favorite restaurant. It’s hard to believe that at one time, this lowly spice was one highly coveted and was only available to the very rich. In fact, in ancient times, black pepper was often used as collateral or currency. You see, pepper is native to South and Southeast Asia and its role in the spice trade made it a key component in the rise of Venice and Genoa in Italy. During the middle ages, Italy held a virtual monopoly on the spice trade. Though it’s more affordable now, its popularity hasn’t waned. Who would have guessed that pepper accounts for one-fifth of the modern day spice trade?
It’s no wonder, then, that Pepato is an authentic Italian cheese that was first crafted in ancient times. Similar to Asiago but studded with whole black peppercorns, this cheese originated in Sicily and reflects the Sicilian love of hearty, robust flavors. In fact, Pepato means "pepper". La Bottega di BelGioioso Pepato blends our 5 month aged Asiago with spicy black peppercorns. It contains less salt than its imported counterpart, so more of the rich, complex flavor of the cheese comes through. Because the cheese moistens and mellows the peppercorns, the flavor is not as intense as some expect.
Pepato adds a little spice to any cheeseboard and pairs wonderfully with figs or grapes. It is delicious on a roast beef sandwich or melted into mashed potatoes or polenta.