Il Bel Paese is a chain of delicatessens specialising in Italian products, but the phrase that makes up the name, which translates as "the beautiful country", is used to refer to Italy itself. And it's a cheese, although not the most distinctive of varieties.

Soft and sliceable, it is made in Lombardy from cow's milk and is delicate, smooth and creamy. Its mild flavour makes it a good cheese for children.

Because it melts smoothly without separating, however, it also works well in cooked dishes and is delicious when paired with other ingredients.

I love bel paese in a slightly unusual grilled-cheese sandwich: lay thin slices over cut bread, top with sliced ham, spread a thin layer of mild chutney over the meat, top with more slices of bel paese, then add the second slice of bread. Press down firmly on the sandwich to compress the ingredients. Melt some butter in a skillet and pan-fry the sandwich until toasted, then carefully flip it over, adding more butter if needed, and pan-fry the other side.

For macaroni and cheese, thinly slice the bel paese (it can be difficult to grate) then cut the slices into short strips. Mix the cheese with some gorgonzola, stir it into a hot bechamel (seasoned with a little grated nutmeg) until it's smooth and melted, then combine it with al dente macaroni. Scatter finely grated parmesan on top, then bake until hot and bubbling and the surface is browned.