Manchego is a very popular Spanish cheese that is made by using fresh sheep’s milk. Hailed from La Mancha region of Spain, this cheese can be only prepared by using the Manchega breed sheep’s milk. Also known as Queso Manchego, this cheese is widely known for its compact and firm consistency along with buttery texture. This Spanish cheese usually has some unevenly placed small sized holes for air passage. The cheese can be found in a wide range of colors starting from ivory yellow to pale white to brownish beige. It is appreciated for the distinctive flavor, which is not too strong but usually leaves an aftertaste of sheep’s milk. Further, there are several manchego cheese recipes, which make very good use of the cheese as one of the vital ingredients in their preparation.
Spainhas a Denominación de Origen (DO) regulatory classification system, which has protected Manchego cheese under the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status. This classification system has been launched by the European Union.
Origin of Manchego Cheese
Manchego is originally from the La Mancha (Castilla- La Mancha) region of Spain. The name of this cheese is also stated in the legendary "Don Quixote of La Mancha" by Cervantes. Traditionally, there were two kinds of cheese. One is the farmhouse type, made by un-pasteurized sheep's milk and the second is industrial type prepared with pasteurized milk.
Culinary Uses of Queso Manchego
Manchego has various culinary uses. Some of these uses are listed below:
- The strong flavor and flaky surface make this cheese a perfect side dish to be served with a toasted slice of bread.
- Manchego is also appreciated when served with sun-dried tomatoes, olives, dry sherry (Fino), robust red wine (Rioja), and crusty bread.
- Due to the distinctive flavors, this cheese is also enjoyable when served with a dessert or snack prepared with fruits. Fruit tarts can also be offered with this cheese.
- It is excellent to serve with the very aromatic Manzanilla wine as a foil. Both these create a marvelous aromatic combination of elegant and classy taste. The wine and cheese compliments each other with the fresh aroma lavender and nuts.
Popular Manchego Cheese Recipes
- Pizza with roasted peppers and manchego cheese- This dish makes very good use of the cheese, where the cheese is sprinkled along with roasted bell peppers and other vegetable toppings on the top of pizza.
- Duck, apple and queso cheese salad- This is a flavorful salad in which skinless duck is cooked in stock and combined with apple and other salad ingredients which are topped with the creamy cheese dressing to enhance its appeal and flavor.
Potato and Queso Manchego Tart- In this recipe, peeled and thinly sliced potatoes are sprinkled with garlic, parsley, pepper, salt and cheese, and placed in oven. The tart is then placed in a plate, cut and served.
There are various other recipes which make use of this cheese, where the cheese can be used with ham, eggs, bread etc. Also, the cheese can be used as one of the filling ingredients in case of sandwiches, burgers etc.
Variations of Manchego Cheese
Manchego has a large variety of flavors, which usually depends on the age of the cheese. Following are the versions of this cheese based on the maturity:
- Fresco is the freshest cheese, which is just 2 weeks old and rich in mild flavor. This particular cheese is rarely found outside Spain as it is usually made in small portions.
- Curado is three to six months old cheese, which is identified by semi-firm texture. This cheese has nutty and sweet flavor. It usually melts very well and is mostly utilized in quesadillas.
- Viejo has a sharper flavor as compared to any other version. More than one year old, this version of cheese gets better and deeper pepper-ness with time. Also, it can be consumed alone; this cheese is very easy to grate. Manchego is considered best when served with tapas.