Have you tried an Italian cheese with larvae? When I tried marcetto for the first time in Abruzzo I kept looking for the little white wriggling creatures on my bread. However, to my disappointment, the man who served the food said the maggots are normally removed for aesthetic reasons.
Pecorino marcetto has become one of my favourite cheeses in Abruzzo. It is produced mainly in and around the mountain village of Castel del Monte, in the province of l’Aquila. Made from sheep milk, it has creamy texture and a strong taste. It is a cheese that by normal standards started going bad because a cheese fly (Piophila casei) deposited its larvae inside a crack that was made specially for it. The little maggots feed on the cheese, breaking down its protein and making the inside of the wheel soft and creamy. When marcetto is ready, it is transferred to a terracotta or glass jar and ready to be enjoyed. It is for real slow food connoisseurs and certainly not for faint-hearted: the smell is penetrating and pungent, the taste is quite spicy and gets stronger after a few days in the fridge. It is normally eaten generously spread on bread. Locals devour it in winter accompanied by oven-baked potatoes. They say it is good for your health and even call a “natural Viagra”!
You will not find pecorino marcetto in a supermarket, however it is on the menu in some restaurants around Abruzzo. But to get the real deal you should go to to the mountains of Gran Sasso. It is made there in small amounts and can be bought in Castel del Monte from local producers. You can find two of them in the village on Via S. Donato, 2 and 56. Or simply ask a friendly local where to find marcetto and they will show you a shop or cheese factory.
There are other similar types of “larvae” cheese in Friuli Venezia Giulia (called “saltarello”), Lombardy (”formai nis”) and Sardinia (”casu marzu”).
I can organise cheese tastings and visits to producers of marcetto in Castel del Monte for small groups. For more details contact me.