In antique documents concerning Aosta Valley the name Fontina is often seen. In the mid Fontina 1200s there was mention of the “de Funtina” family which a century later became “de Fontines”. There is a wealth of documentation on the use of the name Fontina to indicate place names: meadows, lands, villages…
Slowly leafing through the archives you can note the name Fontina matched to the characteristic cheese; substituting “vacherinus”, together with “seras” cheese, and then from the 18th
century onwards it was definitively used for the typical cheese.
For several centuries Fontina was produced where enough milk, that is enough cows, was available, in the high pastures. As during the winter almost all Valdaostan families had just two
or three cows per family, it was only during the 1800s that shift dairies were set up and the milk transformed by co-operatives. If you visit Valdaostan castles, look at the frescoes in Issogne Castle. Among ladies, knights and warriors there is a medieval market stall selling cheese: the typical Fontina cheese is easily recognisable.
The production territory of Fontina is Aosta Valley, the Autonomous Region in the Western Alps, opening on to Piedmont, Valais, Savoy and Upper Savoy. Encircled by Europe’s most
famous peaks: Mont Blanc, Monte Rosa, the Matterhorn and Gran Paradiso.
The real “makers” of Fontina are the Region’s mountain pastures and the autochthonous breed of cow: dappled red, dappled black and chestnut who play an irreplaceable role exalting the
grass in the high pastures and the natural locally-grown hay. You can preserve the Fontina in the cellar or in the fridge.
In the cellar place the cheese in a damp room, preferably on a wooden shelf, with a temperature not exceeding 10-12°C. Every so often rub the cheese with a damp, salted cloth to remove the
normal white mould on the rind. Should the cellar be too dry, wrap the cheese in a damp cloth. In the fridge wrap the slice in cling film and place in the cool store of the fridge, where you generally keep vegetables.
Valdaostan style pancakes
Ingredients for 4 people:
For the pancakes
• 90 g flour
• 1/4 litre of milk
• 2 eggs
For the filling
• cooked ham
• Béchamel sauce
Beat the eggs, slowly add the flour and milk until you have a smooth, consistent creamy mixture. Pour a ladleful of mixture into a wide non-stick pan and cook the pancake for a few minutes until golden. Make pancakes with the rest of the mixture. Place the ham and Fontina on the pancakes. Roll them up and place in a buttered ovenproof dish. Cover with Béchamel sauce and some curls of butter. Season with salt and pepper and make a gratin in the oven for 15 minutes at 180°.