Val D'Aosta is the smallest region in Italy but with the highest mountains in Europe and the food is greatly influenzed by France and the Alps.
As with most northern regions, polenta is a part of the staple diet and is served here with smoked bacon and game from the mountains and forests.
Rye bread, cheese fondue, bread thickened soups and stewed, braised and roasted dishes are customary here. Butter, cream and cheese are more important than in other parts of Italy.
A delicious cow's milk cheese called Fontina has been produced in Val D'Aosta since the 12th century. Fontina Val d'Aosta is a semi-cooked, full-fat, semi-hard cheese using unpasteurised milk from a single milking, with two batches being made per day. It has an intense flavour and is noted for its sweet earthy taste.
When the cheese is young it has a softer texture and melts well making it ideal for fondues. The locals make a mouthwatering fondue called Fonduta using Fontina cheese whipped up with eggs and cream and butter. A good melting cheese, Fontina can be substituted in recipes with Gruyère, Emmental, Beaufort, Taleggio, Edam, or Gouda.
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