Photo Credit: Elizabeth Newman
No more scratching your head at the grocery store – here are the best cheeses, pairings and serving ideas for your cheese board.
Tapenades. Jams. Olives. So many cheese options it makes your head spin. Luckily, from Giada’s restaurants to recipe developing and beyond, we’ve had more cheese board experience at the Giadzy Kitchen than we ever thought possible – and we’ve picked up a thing or two about pairings along the way. Consider this your ultimate bookmarkable guide on how to build any cheese board!
A few thoughts to consider while brainstorming your creation: if you search Pinterest for fall cheese boards, you’ll see some seriously beautiful and overflowing platters – and to be totally honest, we think some of them are a little too much! For example, halved pomegranates and whole apples look lovely – but are totally inaccessible to eat for your guests. Basically, you don’t want to be filling up cheese board real estate with whole fruits and mini pumpkins or other difficult-to-eat (or straight up inedible) items for the sake of the aesthetic! We firmly believe that you should keep it simple – because simple is still totally gorgeous. Think about the ease of accessibility for guests in other ways, too – for instance, while hard cheeses can look pretty in their original wedge, people are much more inclined to eat them when they’re already cut up!
And now – all of the best cheese board pairings, explained!
How to cut it? Get guests started by slicing off just a few wedges to show them how it’s done, and leave a small cheese knife nearby. Leave it upright so that the rind is on the top – whole small wheels look especially pretty.
Pairings: There’s a reason why baked brie is so popular – brie pairs amazingly well with all things sweet. Look for sweet jams like fig and raspberry – or even apple butter. Candied walnuts or pecans also make an incredible pairing while adding some crunch to the creamy cheese.
How to cut it? Same as brie!
Pairings: A soft-ripened creamy cheese like Brie, Camembert pairs with similar accompaniments. Jams, sweet mostardas, fruit and spiced or sweet nuts go very well with it.
How to cut it? Uniform cubes in 1/2″ to 1″
Pairings: Sharp cheddar can swing either way in terms of sweet or savory. For sweet, you can’t beat the combination of apple + cheddar – so go for an apple butter or slices of fresh apple. Because it goes so well with sweet and salty at once, we love sharp cheddar with a mostarda – like Giada’s grape or apricot recipes (whole grapes make a good combo too!). Cheddar always goes great served alongside some salty cured Italian meats – think Calabrese and Soppresata.
How to cut it? We love to chisel it off in rough, jagged cuts about 1/4″ thick.
Pairings: Pecorino has a very particular salty and sharp flavor, so it stands up really well to cured meats and briney accompaniments. Olives, tapenades, giardiniera and cornichons are a great play. If you want to play with sweetness, a mild honey works well.
How to cut it? Cut it in jagged planks similarly to Pecorino!
Pairings: Parmigiano is an amazing salty cheese that goes with… well, just about anything on a cheese board! When it comes to serving with sweet accompaniments, we often opt for a mild honey to just bring out the sweetness in the cheese without overpowering the flavor. Salty, briney condiments like whole grain mustard, tapenades and cornichons are great to pair with as well. Note that we aren’t talking about Parmesan, the domestic and less-flavorful counterpart to Parmigiano! This is the time to splurge on the nicer one.
How to cut it? Chevre generally comes in a log shape. Cut a few slices off into coins, and leave a cheese knife nearby for guests to slice more themselves.
Pairings: Chevre has a fresh tang that works amazingly with very sweet components. Figs, honey, and all kinds of jams and jellies are the play! Mild prosciutto is a great savory counterpart. Herbal notes work well too – you can get fancy by rolling a log of chevre in black pepper and dried herbs before adding it to the platter.
How to cut it? Gorgonzola can range in how soft or hard it is – if it’s a harder sliceable variety, thin and jagged cuts similar to Parmigiano and Pecorino look great. If it’s softer, like a Gorgonzola dolce, go the Brie route – get started with a few cuts, and keep a cheese knife handy for guests.
Pairings: This polarizing cheese has a super strong salty and savory flavor, and it can work beautifully with sweeter pairings. Dates, figs, cranberries and honeycomb all go beautifully with it. Marcona almonds are a great buttery, mildly-sweet nut to pair this creamy cheese with as well.
How to cut it? Don’t! We love mini mozzarella ciliegine balls for easy snacking.
Pairings: For a fun and easy twist that looks super gourmet, marinate your mozzarella balls in a quick vinaigrette of good olive oil, dried oregano and kosher salt. If you want a kick, adding a little hit of calabrian chili paste makes a great addition too!
How to cut it: Let the guests dig right in! It’s half the fun of burrata.
Pairings: Burrata is a very fresh and creamy cheese, so pair it with other fresh additions – whole fresh-tasting fruit, like persimmon slices or grapes, pair wonderfully. We love it paired with melon, but since it’s out of season by the time fall rolls around, don’t bother with it! Mild, rich Prosciutto pairs with the fresh creamy flavor very very well. An herb salt or citrus of any kind cuts through the richness of burrata too. Just note that cutting into burrata can make a mess – we recommend keeping it in its own bowl or plate separate from the rest.
Smoked Mozzarella, Gouda or Provolone
How to cut it: These cheeses are all a similar slightly bouncy texture, so cut into cubes similar to ones you would with cheddar.
Pairings: Smoke goes well with salt and briney components. This is the time to pair with bright olives, pickled vegetables, peppers, tapenades, and all sorts of charcuterie.
Really want to get that cheese board garnering Instagram shots from your friends? A few little additions can take a cheeseboard from looking regular to stunning. Fresh herbs, like thyme and rosemary, are great for filling in gaps and giving a holiday feel without taking the inedible-garnish concept too far!