When it comes to Italian-inspired comfort food, you truly can't beat Olive Garden. This restaurant chain is known for its laidback ambiance as well as its expansive selection of pasta, soup, and coveted breadsticks. The Five Cheese Ziti al Forno is particularly beloved because who could deny the greatness of cheese-topped pasta and marinara sauce? Along with the assortment of Italian cheeses that top the dish, the Ziti al Forno's marinara sauce also features five distinct cheeses.
Like many chain restaurants, Olive Garden keeps its recipes a well-guarded secret to entice patrons to visit its locations instead of recreating the restaurant's dishes at home. When Daily Meal reached out to a staff member at Olive Garden regarding the selection of cheeses, they stated that both the five-cheese marinara and the Ziti al Forno topping features ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, Romano, and asiago cheeses. These popular Italian cheeses are a staple of many pasta dishes thanks to their bold flavors and satisfying textures. And while using five distinct cheeses might seem like overkill, each brings something special to the dinner table.
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Five Cheeses To Rule Them All
Of the five Italian cheeses featured in Olive Garden's Ziti al Forno, mozzarella might be the biggest crowd-pleaser. Mozzarella is beloved for its mild flavor, as well as its satisfying stretchy texture when heated, which is why it's a staple pizza topping. Of course, parmesan cheese also has much to offer pasta dishes, as it infuses recipes with sharp flavors and an underlying nuttiness that gives it an unforgettable flavor profile.
Romano cheese is similar to parmesan in flavor and hardness but has brinier underpinnings and a more impactful taste overall. When it comes to asiago, the aging process used to make the cheese can cause quite a few variations in texture and flavor. For instance, asiago can be semi-hard, firm, subtly sweet, or potently nutty. Last but certainly not least is ricotta, a versatile soft cheese that works beautifully in sweet and savory dishes.
Ricotta Infuses Pasta With Unforgettable Creaminess
Along with its creamy richness, ricotta is also well-known for its subtle flavoring, which includes pleasantly nutty undertones. And while ricotta is often derived from cow's milk these days (as opposed to goat or sheep milk, as it was in the past), it's not directly made with milk but with whey, which consists of milk solids that differ from the solid curds produced when making cheese, but it requires additional processing to render it into a cheese of its own.
This yellow-tinged liquid is heated until it's almost boiling, which separates the proteins in whey from its liquid components. These proteins are often combined with acidic ingredients like vinegar or citrus juices, which imbues the resulting cheese with its signature tangy flavor. It's also common to add more cream to the whey to ensure the final product achieves the perfect texture.
While each of the five cheeses included in Olive Garden's baked ziti stands on its own, they're a force to be reckoned with when combined. The resulting dish is a gooey, flavorful masterpiece that highlights why so many people find Olive Garden's version of Italian cuisine so satisfying.
Read the original article on Daily Meal.