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The island of Sicily is home to an ancient cheesemaking tradition, which some claim is in fact Europe’s oldest (Cantarelli, Betta), it is home to the second most populous sheep breed in Italy and its regional cuisine has infinite uses for the cheeses produced here. Yet, this extraordinary heritage is not well understood, both outside the island and within Sicily, and there is not a widespread awareness of its cultural, as well as gastronomic, value.

The cheeses listed here are the main traditional Sicilian cheeses being promoted through the Lactimed project.



Canestrato is a semi-hard pasteurized cheese, made in varied sizes from cow’s milk, sometimes with the addition of sheep or goat’s milk. Its production in Sicily is mentioned in documents dating back to 1200 and it appears that cattle herders produced it during the spring to use up the excess sheep’s milk of that period of the year. When the cheese is young and not yet salted, it is also called Tumazzu or Primo Sale. The name Canestrato comes from the container – traditionally made from woven cane – that holds the curds and imprints its shape on each cheese. Each round weighs between 4 and 14 kilograms. Canestrator Pipatu is made with the addition of black peppercorns. Canestrato is produced across Sicily.

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