Three ingredients. That’s all it takes to get yourself into the oozing cheesy Argentinian nirvana that is Provoleta.
Argentina is all about eating meat. Well, a good chunk of its cuisine is, anyway. But the good thing for us cheese lovers is that many parrilla and asado menus have this as an option. Provoleta.
It was invented by a cheese-making Italian immigrant more than 70 years ago – a guy that wanted to add grilled cheese to the meat-filled parrillas. He chose provolone as it stood up to direct heat much better than others, due to its semi-firm texture.
True parilleros know they should leave the provolone out of the fridge for several hours before slapping it over the coals. This dries out the surface so it crisps beautifully and holds its shape.
Others choose to cook the cheese in a ceramic or cast iron dish – as I have done – so the diner can dunk into it with bread. Either way it’s a delightfully sinful experience.
The best bits? That golden, caramelized crust that’s spent time against the hot skillet. Oooh yeah!
Many parrillas team it with charred red capsicum, bacon and other ingredients, just like the one I savored at El Desnivel in Buenos Aires. It’s so good!
Provolone is the traditional choice for Provoleta, but ensure you choose a version that’s good for melting. There are many types of provolone, and some are aged longer, making them drier and less suitable for this dish.
Using a smaller skillet (as specified) ensures that the cheese melts but stays somewhat contained rather than spreading out thinly and potentially burning.
Herbs and Spices:
Feel free to adjust the amount of oregano and chili flakes based on personal preferences. You could also experiment with other herbs or spices for a different flavor profile.
Provoleta is best enjoyed hot, right off the skillet. If it cools down, it will solidify and not provide the same gooey texture. It’s often served as a starter in Argentina, especially before a big barbecue (asado).
While sourdough is mentioned, other crusty breads can also work well. Just ensure the bread can hold up to the melted cheese without getting soggy.
If you’re looking to pair this dish with a drink, a crisp white wine or a light red wine can complement the rich, gooey cheese nicely.
Step by Step Guide to Making Argentinian Provoleta
Prep the Cheese:
- Place your 1-inch thick slab of provolone cheese on a clean kitchen bench.
- Press fresh oregano leaves evenly onto the top surface of the cheese.
- Evenly scatter chili flakes over the cheese, pressing down gently to ensure they adhere to the surface.
Heat the Skillet:
- Position a 12-14 cm cast iron skillet on the stove and turn the flame to medium-high. Allow the skillet to heat up.
Sear the Cheese:
- Carefully place the cheese in the skillet with the unseasoned side facing down.
- Cook the cheese for about 2-3 minutes, or until the bottom turns a beautiful golden brown.
Flip and Melt:
- Using a spatula, gently flip the cheese to sear the seasoned side.
- Allow the cheese to cook until it becomes soft, melty, and fills the contours of the skillet.
Garnishing and Serving:
- For an added burst of flavor, sprinkle some additional oregano leaves and chili flakes over the melted cheese.
- Serve hot, straight from the skillet. Use toasted sourdough bread slices to dunk into the molten cheese and enjoy!
John Bek is a trained chef that decided to throw in his professional apron and move into retail management. He's the guy behind heneedsfood.com - a platform that showcases recipes that cover the likes of everyday cooking, use of native Australian ingredients, as well as Croatian creations that come from his heritage. John also writes about where he's travelled around the world as well as any farmers markets he's visited.