An Alpine cheese treasure.

Ossolano PDO is a cheese with centuries of history behind it, represented by numerous historical, scenic and symbolic testimonies which strongly characterise the area. It is the finest expression of cheese-making in the far north of Piedmont, made from milk from cows reared and fed entirely in the local valleys.


Ossolano PDO owes its origin to the migrations of the Walsers, a population originally from Switzerland, who settled in the Ossola area over the centuries. To cope with the particular climatic conditions of the area, the community of Swiss origin developed their own cheese-making technique, which included the incorporation of the semi-cooking phase, necessary to improve the draining of the whey.

The oldest documentary evidence of the name ‘Ossolano’ dates back to 1006, when the Bishop of Novara, Pietro, rented the buildings of the Pieve di San Vincenzo in Grimaldo in exchange for 100 pounds of Ossolano cheese. It is particularly suitable for eating as it is or as an ingredient in the preparation of dishes like the typical “gnocchi ossolani”, and other traditional recipes from the area of origin, such as fondue, black bread soup and “polenta concia”.

The local plants on which the cattle graze contribute significantly to giving Ossolano PDO its characteristic, harmonious and delicate aroma, which is linked to the seasonal variety of flora.


Ossolano PDO cheese is cylindrical in shape with a straight heel and flat faces. It weighs 6 to 7 kg (from 5 to 6 for the product made on the alpine pastures and labelled “d’Alpe”), with a heel height of 6 to 9 cm and a diameter of 29 to 32 cm. It has a smooth, regular, straw-coloured rind, which tends to deepen in colour as the cheese matures. The paste is firm and supple with small, irregular eyes, varying in colour from slightly straw-coloured to deep yellow. The aroma is characteristic, harmonious and delicate, linked to the seasonal variety of flora, becoming more intense and fragrant with age.

The territory

The farms and dairies that produce the milk and carry out the processing and maturing of Ossolano PDO cheese are located in that strip of land known as Ossola, which stretches along the Italian side of the Pennine Alps from Monte Rosa to Gries and runs from north to south for about 72 km across a maximum width of about 37 km. It shares borders with the Swiss Canton of Valais to the north, Ticino to the east, Lake Maggiore to the south and Valsesia to the west. The 36 municipalities where Ossolano PDO cheese can be produced are: Antrona Schieranco, Anzola d’Ossola, Baceno, Bannio Anzino, Beura Cardezza, Bognanco, Calasca Castiglione, Ceppo Morelli, Craveggia, Crevoladossola, Crodo, Domodossola, Druogno, Formazza, Macugnaga, Malesco, Masera, Mergozzo, Montecrestese, Montescheno, Ornavasso, Pallanzeno, Piedimulera, Pieve Vergonte, Premia, Premosello Chiovenda, Re, Santa Maria Maggiore, Seppiana (now with Viganella Borgo Mezza Valle), Toceno, Trasquera, Trontano, Vanzone con San Carlo, Varzo, Viganella, Villadossola, Villette and Vogogna, all located in the northern part of the province of Verbano Cusio Ossola.

How it is made

The milk comes from small farms with an average of around 30 lactating cows fed on fodder which accounts for at least 60% (of the dry substance) of their feed, produced in the demarcated area, and is processed raw or after being pasteurised, with the addition of rennet at a temperature of between 36°C and 39°C. After coagulation, the curd is broken until the granules are reduced to the size of a kernel of corn, completing the operation within 5 to 10 minutes. Cooking begins while the curd is kept moving, progressing to temperatures between 42°C and 45°C, and continues for between 15 and 30 minutes. Once the heating is over, the curd is extracted and pressed to expel the residual whey and to obtain a smooth mass of cheese. The time required to perform this process varies depending on the pressure applied, lasting up to a maximum of 12 hours. Pressing and semi-cooking are the operations that differentiate Ossolano PDO from other cheeses made in neighbouring areas. The cheese is made with milk obtained from animals reared in mountain pastures located in the same area, at altitudes no lower than 1,400 metres above sea level, where it is processed between 10 June and 30 September each year.

Who makes it

Ossola cheese is an expression of the collective know-how of the farmers of Ossola, the result of a shared qualification process. The product’s link with local history and traditions originates from the relations between the original populations of the area and the Walser people, who came from nearby Switzerland over the centuries and settled in the Ossola area, so much so that they became one of Piedmont’s three linguistic minorities (in addition to the Francoprovençal and Waldensians). The recognition of Ossolano PDO cheese has involved all the stakeholders in the production chain, the farmers, cheesemakers and ripeners, in a long and sometimes tortuous process that has allowed everyone to be involved, taking into account the needs of every stakeholder.

Consortium for the Protection of Ossolano Pdo

Following the long journey to obtain Protected Designation of Origin status, which ended with the official registration in the European Register of Protected Designations of Origin and Protected Geographical Indications, the constitution and recognition of the Consortium for the Protection, Promotion and Enhancement of Ossolano PDO cheese, which is the main interlocutor for its future protection and safeguard, has begun. The Protected Designation of Origin represents a “collective asset’ which has a positive effect directly on agricultural enterprises and indirectly on other local businesses linked to the product by strengthening the social and identifying bonds between the local population, helping to keep the mountain economy associated with quality cheese alive.