by Ashley Linkletter | Allegretto is a unique Canadian cheese. Made entirely of ewe’s milk that has been thermalized (the milk has been heated up to a temperature that falls somewhere in between pasteurized and unpasteurized), this beautiful pressed curd cheese is made in La Sarre, Quebec by the fromagerie La Vache a Maillotte.
Making cheese from ewe’s milk is a costly and time consuming effort, so very little is made in Canada. Making a firm cheese out of ewe’s milk doubles the efforts, as the cheese has to be aged, turned, and taken care of for the full 120 days it takes to age each wheel. The wheels are roughly 3.5 kgs each and the surface is imprinted with an etched pattern that looks as though the cheese has been pressed with rough burlap. The paste is the softest shade of pale gold, only slightly darkening towards its edges.
Allegretto has a texture that is smooth and creamy, but with the lingering tastes that only an aged cheese can produce making it a culinary chameleon, distinctive in its own right but easily and enjoyably adaptable as an ingredient.
There is nothing wrong with a cheese that serves a utilitarian purpose in the kitchen, especially if it has a depth of flavour to match its seemingly endless uses. Allegretto shines either alone at the end of a meal or as an addition to sauces, salads, appetizers, and pasta dishes. Think of it as you would a block of Parmiggiano Reggiano only with a more subtle sensibility, its flavours not quite as sharp or immediately definable.
With flavours of sweet, clean hay, tangy fruitiness, and toasted nuts, Allegretto is easily paired with late summer and early autumn fruit. Ripe peaches and Honeycrisp apples would benefit greatly nestled up to a thick slab of Allegretto, while fruit crisps and pies would become things of perfection with fine shavings of the cheese added right before serving. Allegretto would be a lovely addition to a salad or appetizer that included fresh figs and thinly shaved Prosciutto di Parma as its main ingredients.
If you’re lactose intolerant, Allegretto can provide a more intriguing alternative to Pecorino Romano, leaving the intended creaminess and omitting the intense sheep flavour that Romano can sometimes have. Allegretto is a very wine friendly cheese, although in the spirit of prolonging summer as long as possible I suggest pairing it with an off dry Riesling that features notes of peaches or other stone fruit.