The Kitchn: Provoleta is melty, gooey perfection

The Kitchn: Provoleta Is Melty, Gooey Perfection
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Soft, melty grilled cheese topped with herbaceous chimichurri is a staple appetizer in Argentine cuisine.

It’s hard to go wrong with a big dish of melty cheese. Fondue, baked Brie, and queso fundido are all prime examples — provoleta is yet another. The bubbling Argentinian cheese is a dish I deeply fell for on a trip to Buenos Aires years ago.

I was a vegetarian at the time, which proved a bit difficult, given how meat-heavy Argentinian food can be. Provoleta is typically served with vibrant chimichurri and grilled bread before a feast of grilled meats, but it’s so gooey and satisfying that it was an entire meal for me while my husband awaited his steak. Even though I eat meat now, I am still quite content making provoleta the star. Whether you enjoy it as a starter or the main event, you really can’t go wrong.

What is provoleta?

Provoleta is both the name of the dish and the cheese. Traditionally, the dish is made of a thick slice of provolone-style cheese cooked over hot coals (often directly on grill grates) until it’s melty and browned. Herby, garlicky chimichurri sauce is often spooned over the warm cheese and the whole thing is served immediately with grilled bread.

Is provoleta the same as provolone?

Provoleta is the now-trademarked name of a provolone style of cheese invented around 1940 for grilling purposes. While it’s similar to Italian provolone, it’s not exactly the same in terms of texture and flavor. Provoleta can be hard to find outside of South America, which is why many recipes, including this one, call for provolone instead. Sharp, aged provolone is your best bet, as it is firm enough to be grilled and also delivers a salty, nutty, flavor. Ask the folks at the deli counter to cut a thick slice off the long cylinder of aged provolone in the deli case.

How to make this Argentine-inspired provoleta

It requires some skill to cook provoleta on the grill grates, so I like to flip the cheese into a cast iron skillet after grilling it directly on grill grates on one side. This allows the cheese to continue to melt without fear of it falling through the grates. For this reason, you won’t get much browning on the cheese, but don’t sweat it: It will still be perfectly melted and gooey. The skillet also doubles as a handy serving vessel.

If you’d rather not bother with the grill, you can make provoleta under the broiler. Skipping the grill does have a benefit for home cooks: It’s a bit less nerve-wrecking than cooking over grill grates and you’ll get a little more browning on the top.

You don’t need to serve provoleta with much else but good crusty bread. Grill the bread, if you like, because the grill is already on, or if you’re going the broiler route, toast the bread in a skillet or in the toaster.

Argentine-Inspired Provoleta

Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 (8-ounce, about 1-inch-thick) piece sharp provolone cheese
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 small bunch fresh parsley
  • 3 sprigs fresh oregano
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Crusty bread, for serving

1. Heat half of a gas grill for direct, medium-high heat (about 400 F), or heat a charcoal grill for two-zone cooking. Place a small cast iron skillet, oven-safe frying pan, or grill-safe baking dish that’s about the same size as 1 (8-ounce) piece sharp provolone cheese on the grates of the unlit side of the grill while it is heating. Meanwhile, make the chimichurri.

2. Prepare the following, adding each to a mini or regular food processor fitted with the blade attachment as you complete it: Smash and peel 1 garlic clove. Pick the leaves from 1 small bunch fresh parsley until you have 1 packed cup. Pick the leaves from 3 fresh oregano sprigs until you have 1/4 packed cup.

3. Add 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes to the food processor. Pulse, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally, until blended but still a little chunky, 25 to 30 pulses.

4. Lightly brush one side of the cheese with olive oil. ​​Place, oil-side down, on the direct-heat side of the grill. Grill uncovered until the edges start to melt and soften, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Use a thin metal spatula to lift and flip the provolone over into the skillet, oil-side up.

5. Cover and grill, until the cheese is very soft and melty, 6 to 8 minutes more. Carefully transfer the skillet to a heat-proof plate or surface. Spoon some of the chimichurri over the provoleta and serve immediately with crusty bread and the remaining chimichurri.

Recipe notes

Make ahead: The chimichurri can be made up to one day ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container with some plastic wrap pressed onto the surface to keep it from browning.

Broiler method: Arrange an oven rack 6 to 8 inches from the broiler element and heat the broiler to high. Heat a small cast-iron skillet or oven-safe frying pan on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Place the provolone directly into the skillet and cook until the bottom edges start to melt and bubble, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Immediately transfer to the oven and broil until the top has browned in spots and the cheese is very soft and melty, 3 to 5 minutes more.

(Sheela Prakash is a senior contributing food editor for TheKitchn.com, a nationally known blog for people who love food and home cooking. Submit any comments or questions to editorial@thekitchn.com.)