Gorgonzola and feta are two of the world’s most popular and famous cheeses. While they share some similarities, such as being mold-ripened, they have distinct differences when it comes to taste, texture, and uses. This article will dive into the key factors that set gorgonzola and feta apart, to help readers understand their unique qualities and decide which cheese is better suited for their needs. We’ll cover the history, production methods, flavor profiles, culinary applications, nutrition facts, pricing and more to compare these two classic cheeses in depth.
History and Origins
To understand gorgonzola and feta, it helps to learn about their origins and traditional production methods. While both cheeses can trace their roots back centuries, they hail from different regions and cultures.
The Rich History of Gorgonzola Cheese
Gorgonzola has a long and storied past, hailing from the town of the same name in the Lombardy region of Italy. Records show it has been produced there since the year 879 AD, making it one of the world’s oldest surviving blue cheeses.
The greenish-blue veins that lace gorgonzola are the result of penicillium mold spores added during production. As the cheese ages, these mold veins lend a distinctive pungent, almost spicy flavor and aroma. Traditional gorgonzola is made from whole unskimmed cow’s milk, which is curdled and then shaped into large wheels or rounds. The wheels are pierced with steel rods to allow air to penetrate and encourage mold growth. Gorgonzola ages for a minimum 2-3 months, though connoisseurs often prefer cheeses aged 6 months or longer.
Over the centuries, gorgonzola gained fame for its unique flavor profile. Italy granted it Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status, meaning authentic gorgonzola can only be produced in specific provinces like Novara, Bergamo, Brescia and more. Today, it remains one of Italy’s most popular cheese exports.
Feta’s Centuries-Old Roots in Greece
Feta also has ancient origins, hailing from the rugged, rugged Mediterranean terrain of Greece. Records dating back as early as the 8th century BC mention cheesemaking in Greece, likely referring to an early ancestral version of feta.
Traditional feta is made from a blend of 30% goat’s milk and 70% sheep’s milk. The milk coagulates using rennet, separates into curds and whey, and the curds are drained. Feta is then pressed into large blocks and immersed in brine (saltwater) for extended periods to ferment and age. The brining process gives feta its trademark salty, tangy flavor.
Like gorgonzola, feta also earned PDO status in the European Union. Authentic feta must legally be produced in select regions of Greece like Thessaly, Thrace, Lesbos, and others. It remains a cornerstone of Greek cuisine today.
Comparing Taste and Texture
Of course, the most noticeable differences between gorgonzola and feta lie in their taste and textures. Foodies often enjoy debating which cheese delivers the best flavor.
Pungent, Earthy Gorgonzola
Gorgonzola is famous for its assertive flavor profile. The blue mold veins lend a sharp, earthy pungency that hits the palate immediately. At around 3 months of age, gorgonzola is moist and buttery. Given time to mature, the texture becomes firm and crumbly with a concentrated, spicy zing. The mold contributes nutty, peppery undertones as well.
Fans love gorgonzola for its intense, bold personality. The flavor has been described as funky, piquant and even meaty. It makes a dramatic impact in cooking.
Salty, Briny Feta
In contrast to gorgonzola’s pungency, feta is best known for its salty, tangy personality. Extended brining gives it a bright, acidic flavor profile. Young, soft feta has a milky undertone. As feta ages, the texture firms up and becomes crumbly. The saltiness intensifies and takes center stage.
Briny, herbaceous notes come to the forefront in aged feta’s flavor. Hints of lemon and olive make it the perfect complement to Mediterranean dishes. The salt acts as a flavor enhancer.
While gorgonzola is bold and in-your-face, feta charms with its zingy, alkaline taste. It adds a savory depth without overwhelming the palate.
How They’re Best Used in Cooking
With such distinct flavors and textures, gorgonzola and feta naturally lend themselves to different culinary applications. Knowing their strengths helps you utilize them properly in the kitchen.
Gorgonzola Shines in Pungent Dishes
The sharpness and potent flavor of gorgonzola means a little goes a long way. It does best when paired with other bold ingredients that can handle its personality.
A classic Italian pairing is gorgonzola dolce with pears or apples. The sweet fruit contrasts the pungency. Gorgonzola also elevates salads when crumbled over greens with walnuts and aged balsamic vinegar.
Melting gorgonzola over beef, pork or chicken offers a savory flavor boost. And it’s hard to beat gorgonzola on pizza or flatbreads. The cheese gets wonderfully gooey and tangy when baked. For cheese fanatics, a gorgonzola burger certainly hits the spot!
Feta’s Bright, Salty Punch in Dishes
Crumbling feta over a dish adds a salty tang that brings all the other flavors into focus. Its briny savoriness makes it a natural fit for Mediterranean cuisine.
Greek salads simply aren’t complete without a generous sprinkle of feta. The same goes for feta and tomato pairings. Salty feta and summer-sweet tomatoes are a heavenly match.
Feta shines in dips, sauces and spreads by lending a bold baseline flavor. Blending it into tzatziki, eggplant dip or marinara sauce amps up the overall taste. And no Greek-style burger is complete without some crumbled feta topping things off.
Eggs and veggie dishes all win a flavor boost from some crumbled or grilled feta. It also imparts a nice saltiness to breads, pizzas and flatbreads.
Nutrition Profile and Health Benefits
For the health-conscious, nutrition facts may also help determine whether gorgonzola or feta is the better choice. Both offer some benefits, but it depends on factors like milk type and fat content.
Nutrition Breakdown of Gorgonzola
Gorgonzola is made from cow’s milk, giving it a nutritional profile similar to other full-fat cow’s milk cheeses. A 1 oz serving provides:
- 98 calories
- 8g of fat (mostly saturated fat)
- 6g of protein
- 10% DV of calcium
- 15% DV of vitamin A
- 12% DV of riboflavin
As a fermented cheese, gorgonzola contains probiotics that may offer digestive health benefits. The protein, calcium and vitamin A content also support bone and muscle health.
However, gorgonzola is high in saturated fat and sodium, which some people are advised to limit. Aged gorgonzola may be easier to digest than fresh.
Nutrition Profile of Lower-Fat Feta
Since authentic feta comes from sheep and goat milk, it offers a slightly different nutrition profile from cow’s milk cheeses:
- 75 calories per 1 oz
- 6g of fat (mostly saturated fat)
- 5g protein
- 10% DV calcium
- 4% DV vitamin A
- 4% DV vitamin B12
Feta made from sheep/goat milk is lower in lactose than cheese made from cow’s milk. The probiotic content provides digestive benefits. Feta offers protein and calcium, but is high in sodium due to the brining process.
For those limiting saturated fat, reduced-fat feta varieties are widely available. They sacrifice little in terms of tangy flavor.
Cost Comparison: Gorgonzola vs Feta
Pricing often plays a role in choosing between gorgonzola vs feta. Especially for regular use in the kitchen, cost may be a deciding factor.
Gorgonzola Pricing Varies by Age
Retail pricing for gorgonzola depends heavily on the age of the cheese. Young, mild gorgonzola dolce costs around $12-15 per pound. For the more pungent, crumbly aged varieties like gorgonzola naturale, prices range from $15-22 per pound.
Imported Italian gorgonzola that’s professionally aged can cost over $30 per pound, moving it into gourmet territory. For cooking purposes, a younger gorgonzola dolce offers plenty of flavor at a more affordable price point.
Feta Costs Less Than Most Cheeses
Feta is relatively cost effective as far as quality cheeses go. At the grocery store, a 6-8 oz block of feta costs around $4-6 on average. Higher end artisanal Greek fetas may cost up to $12 per pound, but most feta is quite budget friendly.
Buying feta in bulk or blocks instead of in crumbled packages can also save money in the long run. Due to the brining process, feta lasts longer than many fresh cheeses, making it easy to keep an ample supply on hand.
Shelf Life and Storage
Proper storage to maximize shelf life also differs between gorgonzola and feta. Understanding optimal storage methods ensures you safely enjoy each cheese at peak flavor.
Keep Refrigerated Gorgonzola Properly Wrapped
To maintain taste and texture, gorgonzola requires refrigeration. After opening, it will last around 2-3 weeks if tightly wrapped in plastic wrap or wax paper to minimize air exposure.
For longer storage, gorgonzola can be frozen while fresh for up to 2 months. Allow it to thaw overnight in the fridge before using. Freezing does affect the texture somewhat over time.
Take care not slice off mold if it develops, as the veins run through the entire wedge. Discard gorgonzola if it begins smelling unpleasant or ammonia-like.
Feta Can Last Over a Month Refrigerated in Brine
Refrigerating feta in its original brine solution optimizes its shelf life. The brine preserves freshness and prevents the cheese from drying out.
An opened block of feta stored in brine will easily last 4-6 weeks in the fridge. For longer storage, submerge feta blocks in new brine solution in a sealed container.
Unlike gorgonzola, feta’s high salt content makes it difficult to freeze without suffering texture loss. Refrigeration is best. Discard feta if it develops off colors or smells.
The Verdict: Gorgonzola vs Feta
When it comes to an overall gorgonzola vs feta winner, there is no definitive answer. The verdict depends largely on individual taste preferences.
For hardcore cheese fans, it may come down to eating occasion. Bold, funky gorgonzola makes more of a statement in pasta, pizza, salad or charcuterie. Milder feta acts as a salty flavor enhancer that plays well with Mediterranean veggies and herbs.
Ultimately, the two cheeses have unique strengths that shine in different applications. In the blue cheese arena, gorgonzola reigns supreme. But feta cannot be beaten when a bright, briny accent is called for.
Trying both is recommended to experience their flavor profiles. There’s no need to limit your cheese horizons! With diverse tastes and uses, gorgonzola and feta can comfortably coexist in any well-stocked refrigerator.
Frequently Asked Questions
Still debating gorgonzola vs feta? Here are answers to some common questions to provide more food for thought:
What’s the Difference Between Gorgonzola and Blue Cheese?
Gorgonzola is a specific type of blue cheese, originally from Italy. The terms are sometimes used interchangeably. Blue cheese is a broader category that includes gorgonzola, stilton, roquefort and others. They all contain blue-green mold veins in the interior. Gorgonzola is distinguished by its greenish mold and crumbly texture.
Is It Safe to Eat Gorgonzola While Pregnant?
Pregnant women are advised to avoid unpasteurized dairy products due to risk of bacteria. Gorgonzola that is properly pasteurized is considered safe to consume. Check labels and opt for pasteurized gorgonzola to err on the side of caution. Talk to your doctor about cheese consumption during pregnancy.
What Wine Pairs Best With Feta Cheese?
Salty feta pairs nicely with light, fruity wines that cut through the briny flavor. Sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, vinho verde and rosé are especially complementary. Sparkling wines also make an excellent match. Avoid heavy oaky wines that may clash with feta’s tang.
Can Feta Be Frozen?
Freezing feta is not ideal. The high salt content causes texture degradation when frozen and thawed. Feta also tends to crumble when frozen. For best quality and texture, refrigerate feta in its brine. It will keep for weeks, minimizing the need to freeze.
Is Gorgonzola Good on Pizza?
Yes! Gorgonzola adds a pungent, creamy pop of flavor when melted over pizza. Opt for a young, buttery gorgonzola dolce rather than aged crumbly varieties, which don’t melt as smoothly. Pair gorgonzola with sweet toppings like pears, caramelized onions or figs to balance the zing.
Is Feta Higher in Salt Than Other Cheeses?
Yes, feta is significantly higher in sodium than most cheeses, ranging from 400-500mg sodium per ounce. The brining process to preserve and age feta cheese adds considerable salt. People on low-sodium diets may want to enjoy feta in moderation. Aged, hard cheeses like parmesan or cheddar contain less salt per serving in comparison.
The Bottom Line
Feta and gorgonzola each offer unique tasting experiences appreciated by cheese aficionados. Gorgonzola is bolder and more pungent, while feta imparts a salty, briny quality. Their flavors and textures lend themselves to different culinary uses that complement each cheese’s strengths. While personal taste preferences help determine whether gorgonzola or feta is “better”, cheese lovers will find merit in both of these classical varieties. Trying each is the best way to determine which cheese wins out for your individual cooking and eating needs.