What joy I get from seeing some of Spain’s many artisanal cheeses—zamorano, garrotxa, cabrales, roncal, and a meltingly ripe torta del casar, to name a few—wedging their way into U.S. markets. I’m a fan of all these cheeses.
But in both availability and popularity, manchego is still the reigning king; its mild, faintly nutty flavor makes it an easy eating cheese, a solid anchor for any cheese plate, and a favorite in tapas bars throughout Spain. Made from sheep’s milk and aged from sixty days to three years, manchego develops more flavor, a harder texture, and a yellower hue as it matures. I prefer aged manchego, although it costs a bit more (about $13 per pound) than a younger “semi-cured” variety (about $10 per pound). Try adding tiny chunks of a longer-aged manchego to omelets or grate it into a pasta or baked vegetable dish. To serve as a tapa, follow tradition: slice wafer-thin triangles off a narrow wedge and fan them out on a plate.