Artisanal organic cheese made at the Alba Farm in the hinterland of the tiny Molise region is outstanding and a visit to the Alba Farm for a cheese tasting and tour is a must.
Where is the Alba Farm and where is the Molise region?
The Molise region borders four Italian regions: Abruzzo to the north, Campania and Puglia to the south, and Lazio to the west. It’s about a three hour drive south of Rome and a great place to visit.
Although Molise is tiny - it’s the second smallest region - it has fabulous coastline and inland areas full of olive trees and artisans like Nicola del Vecchio and Michela Bunino who own and run the Alba Farm.
Find out more about the Alba Farm on their website, Instagram or Facebook.
The Molise region has fabulous food and wine; read (and listen to) my Molise Food and Wine Guide and Molise: Italy's Secret Magical Region.
About Nicola and Michela
Nicola and Michela are both graduates of the Slow Food university, the University of Gastronomic Sciences, in Pollenzo, Piedmont. The university’s goal is to educate younger generations on the importance of food, and respect for food producers who work in harmony with the environment and ecosystems. Nicola and Michela have fully embraced this philosophy at their Alba Farm.
The Alba Farm is located inland in Molise on a piece of land Nicola inherited from his grandfather. When he inherited the piece of land it was semi-abandoned and overgrown and required a few years to restore it into functional farm condition.
The Alba Farm is fully organic and although it produces primarily delicious cheese they also make other products like wonderful olive oil, jams and preserved vegetables.
Artisanal organic cheese at the Alba Farm in Molise
The Alba Farm uses a combination of goat and sheep milk for its cheese. This increases the nutritional value of the cheese and yields unique and flavorful cheese. The use of latte misto (a mixture of goat and sheep milk) is an ancient tradition in Molise that unfortunately in recent years has disappeared. Nicola brought this tradition back to life in Alba Farm cheesemaking.
Animals graze freely on the property but goats and sheep graze on different plants. For example goats will eat thorny bushes whereas sheep don’t. Consequently the flavor of the cheese, especially the fresh ricotta cheese, has a flavor profile that reflects all the wonderful native plants and herbs on the Alba property.
The flavor profile of the Alba Farm cheese changes throughout the year depending on the season. Right now in the fall figs are abundant and the animals enjoy eating all the figs that have fallen from the trees. When you taste Alba cheese, especially fresh cheese like ricotta, you can taste a hint of figs.
The Alba Farm produces soft cheese like ricotta as well as flavorful spreadable cheese.
The top cheese product at Alba is their Rustico, that’s made into small wheels of from 1 to 3 kilograms.
Alba makes four kinds of Rustico that vary depending on how long it's aged: what is known as Primo Sale, is the softest sliceable variety, aged just 1 to 2 months. Next is the semi-aged (3 to 4 months), aged (six months or more), and the aged or hard Rustico (aged 9 months or more). All of these cheeses are available at the farm or from the 2021 Alba Farm catalog.
Alba sells their cheese locally to people who visit the farm as well as local businesses and restaurants. You can order Alba cheese online. Although Alba hasn’t yet shipped out of Europe they do sell their cheese throughout Italy and to Germany.
Alba Farm jams and preserved vegetables
Nothing goes better with cheese than a delicious jam. Alba has two new jam products in 2021: a Red Pepper and Honey Jam and Lemon Jam. The red pepper jam uses farm-grown peppers and local honey. The lemon jam is made with a variety of different Sicilian lemons and uses one of Nicola’s family recipes, handed down from his grandma.
Alba also jars their yellow cherry tomatoes and red tomatoes for sauces.
Alba Farm Extra Virgin Organic Olive Oil
It took Nicola and Michela a while to prune and restore the olive trees on their property as they were abandoned and overgrown. Now they are back in full splendor and yield wonderful olive oil. Nicola and Michela have designed a brand new bottle and label; you can find their olive oil in the Alba catalog.
A traditional Molise (and Abruzzo) recipe made with Alba’s fresh eggs and aged Rustico cheese
At the Alba Farm chickens roam freely on the property and as you can imagine their organic eggs are delicious. Nicola and Michela make a classic and traditional Molise recipe with their eggs and cheese: Pallotte cace e ove. It's a poor man's vegetarian meatball recipe made with dried bread crumbs, grated cheese, and eggs as the binding agent. The mixture is formed into one inch balls and then either deep fried or cooked in a luscious fresh tomato sauce. Here's the recipe to try.
If you'd like to experience the Alba Farm first hand plan to make a trip to Molise. All kinds of experiences are available at Alba: the olive harvest and extra virgin olive oil tasting, a tour of the cheese making facility with a cheese tasting, or something completely different like a yoga class. Whatever your interest is you can contact Nicola directly by email or reach him on his cell phone to organize your own personalized Alba experience.
I make a small commission on purchases made through links on my website. Prices are identical for you, but purchasing through my links helps support my work to bring you great recipes, podcast episodes, culinary and travel information.