A layer of melted cheese adds the perfect flourish to any pasta dish.
However, not all cheese melts well to form a good topping for pasta.
Here are our favorite picks that will add a delicious finishing touch to your favorite pasta.
Which Cheese Makes the Best Garnish for Pasta?
Whether it’s mac ‘n’ cheese, lasagna, or Spaghetti Bolognese, the best pasta recipes usually include a cheesy garnish and plenty of cheese in the sauce.
While we may all have our personal favorites when it comes to choosing cheese for these dishes, we often prefer varieties that melt and spread without clumping.
Let’s look at the best varieties of cheese that make this possible.
Parmesan is the traditional favorite for authentic pasta recipes.
It’s a hard Italian cheese with mature and bold flavors that enhance the flavor profile of a dish.
It also has a unique flavor that adds more richness and depth to a dish.
Hence, this cheese is widely preferred as a topping for pasta recipes.
It is also a good ingredient to round off the flavors of pasta sauce.
Now, Parmesan needs higher temperatures than other types of soft cheese to melt and spread.
Additionally, it’s harder to melt whole Parmesan than grated or shredded Parmesan.
Hence, we suggest grating or shredding the cheese for the top layer or sauce for pasta. This will make it easier to use.
You can also add a dash of Parmesan just before serving to highlight the savory flavors of a pasta dish.
Like Parmesan, Mozzarella is another staple ingredient in recipes like pasta and Fench Onion soup.
This cheese is used as the topping for pasta dishes because it melts beautifully and forms a delicious stringy layer on top of the pasta.
Authentic mozzarella cheese is made from buffalo milk, and it’s semi-soft and white, with a stringy consistency.
This cheese isn’t aged and hence is moist and delicate. It’s usually stored in brine to retain moisture.
You must use it up quickly because it doesn’t hold up like other cheese.
The stringy nature of mozzarella makes it an attractive choice for pizza toppings.
Fresh mozzarella melts instantly, but it takes more time for high-moisture mozzarella to melt.
For pasta toppings, it’s best to add grated or shredded mozzarella cheese to achieve the desired stringy consistency.
When mozzarella melts, it doesn’t form a smooth and creamy layer like cheddar.
It will instead develop a unique pull quality.
If you are looking for a luscious and creamy cheesy topping for your pasta, ricotta cheese is one of the best options.
It’s one of the finest choices to add unique savory flavors to gourmet Italian pasta recipes.
This Italian cheese is made from the thick whey of sheep, cow, or goat milk.
It’s creamy and smooth, with a slightly grainy texture from the milk solids in the cheese.
Although salty, ricotta cheese has hints of sweetness.
In its natural state, ricotta cheese spreads easily and is very soft.
This cheese has a unique fluffy and airy texture that combines with its salty flavors, making it a very attractive cheese for pasta.
This cheese is easy to melt and stir.
It adds a beautiful texture and delicious flavors to pasta sauce, making it extra-creamy and savory.
You can also use it as a topping for pasta.
Heating it will cause the cheese to melt and spread on the top of the pasta.
Feta is a good addition to pasta sauce because it becomes soft and creamy when heated.
This cheese originated in Greece, and it is widely used in Greek summer salads.
The original versions were made from sheep’s milk.
However, Feta can also be made using cow’s milk or goat’s milk.
It has a deliciously crumbly texture and sharp, salty flavors with a hint of tanginess.
Feta doesn’t melt when heated.
However, the texture of the cheese changes, and it becomes soft and amalgamates well with cream or the sauce base.
By doing so, feta adds rich, savory flavors to the sauce and enhances its complexity.
Hence, it’s a great choice for adding more depth of flavor to pasta sauces.
Asiago is an Alpine or Swiss cheese that was first produced in Italy.
It resembles Parmesan in certain ways. However, it’s creamier with a more earthy flavor.
Asiago cheese is semi-hard when fresh but loses its moisture content and hardens as it matures.
The mild flavors of the cheese also evolve, and it becomes saltier when aged for at least nine months.
Mature Asiago has been aged for several years, and it develops strong and distinctly cheesy flavors.
The well-rounded taste of this cheese makes it a good addition to pasta.
You can sprinkle flecks of Asiago over pasta for a savory twist.
It will melt and spread when heated gently, thus infusing the entire dish with its unique flavors.
Another option is to add grated or shredded Asiago cheese to pasta sauce.
You will not need too much of it since a small amount adds immense flavor and savory hints to the sauce.
Romano is a hard and salty Italian cheese that is mostly used for grating.
It’s typically made from cow’s or sheep’s milk.
This cheese is considered a close replacement for Parmesan cheese due to the similarities in texture and flavor.
However, Romano is sharper and saltier than Parmesan.
Due to its bold flavors, a little goes a long way when you use it in pasta topping.
It’s widely preferred for dishes like ragu and Spaghetti Bolognese for its sharp flavors.
Romano is an aged cheese that becomes hard as it matures.
Due to the low moisture content, it grates well.
It needs a higher temperature for melting compared to softer cheeses.
You can also add Romano cheese to pasta sauce.
However, use it sparingly to prevent the strong flavors of this cheese from overpowering the rest of the ingredients.
If you’re looking to jazz up your pasta with rustic flavors, Taleggio is the right cheese to go for.
Taleggio is a unique soft Italian cheese with well-rounded and distinct flavors that you will seldom find in other varieties.
It’s high in moisture and hence one of the best melting cheeses.
It develops a soft and creamy texture when melted.
It spreads easily when heated and hence is great for topping the pasta.
This cheese is also used in pizzas and grilled sandwiches because of the lovely pulling quality it develops when heated.
Taleggio blends well with other types of cheese to create more complex and beautiful flavors in a dish.
A unique point about Taleggio cheese is that it has a washed rind with a strong and pungent aroma.
The flavors of the rind affect the cheese, but subtly.
This flavorful cheese has a slightly moldy flavor similar to that of blue cheese, with hints of fruity and grassy aroma.
Provolone melts well for pasta, and it’s a good choice as a topping for any cheese-based recipe.
This aged Italian cheese is a curd cheese, similar to mozzarella in texture and flavor.
However, it’s aged longer than mozzarella and has a sharper cheesy taste than mozzarella.
Nevertheless, provolone isn’t as strong as most of the other types of cheese, like Parmesan and Taleggio.
Hence, you can use it liberally in both the topping and sauce for pasta without worrying if it will overwhelm the rest of the flavors.
Provolone is a versatile cooking ingredient that you can use in the topping, sauce, or even as a garnish for pasta.
It melts and spreads beautifully, creating a lush layer.
Hence, it’s a good choice for making a luscious and wonderfully creamy topping for pasta with a rustic, earthy flavor.