LIFE/Risa Johnson: Factory Cheese Tasting in Tuscania


On Monday, I witnessed a birth.

Probably not what you would expect, but it’s what my teacher referred to it as.

It was a birth of cheese.

This week my Italian Cuisine class went on a field trip to the beautiful house of Franceso Marras, nestled in the countryside of Tuscania. There we got the chance to eat most likely the freshest cheese we will ever eat in our lives.

We watched the owner, Francesco, prepare the mixture in a giant pot on the front patio, stirring about every 10 minutes as it got thicker, while our professor, Sergio Grasso, explained the process. Franceso is from Sardinia, famous for the method of making pecorino.

When he retrieved a filter for the cheese, our professor added that “Like all babies, it comes out through a womb.”

And, as the liquid filtered out: “Like all babies, it pees when it comes out.”

Our class was also able to take a peek into the cheese storage room and fridge, which had an impressive variety of different cheeses. I didn’t look around for long though, because the aging cheeses had a pretty pungent odor.

After the demonstration, we had the opportunity to sample fresh bread and several cheeses made at the Marras house, including the just-made Ricotta, 4-month-old Pecorino (my favorite) and aged Asiago, typical of the Italian Alps. We learned the art of pairing wine and cheese; the younger cheeses with sweeter wine, Castelli Romani, and the older and bolder with a Cabernet. There was also homemade honey to go with the ricotta.

From the day’s lesson, I was fascinated to learn that the modern method of cheese making is essentially the same as in medieval times.

Also, before this experience, of seeing Francesco’s property where he makes his products from his own livestock, I wouldn’t think much of where my cheese came from, other than seeing it on the label at the grocery store.

I left the house with a happy belly, a half wheel of Pecorino and a newfound appreciation for artisanship.

Risa Johnson  studentessa USAC

Hi everyone, I am a journalism student from Chico, California. I study Italian and journalism at the Università degli Studi della Tuscia. In my free time, I enjoy eating Italian food, creative writing, being outdoors and traveling as much as possible.

Ciao tutti, sono una studentessa di giornalismo di Chico in California. Studio Italiano e giornalismo all’Università degli Studi della Tuscia. Nel mio tempo libero, mi piace mangiare il cibo Italiano, scrivere creative, stare all’aperto e viaggiare per quanto possibile.