Casu Marzu, Or "Rotten Cheese," is the Illegal Italian Delicacy Infested With Live Maggots

Visceral disgust can be no better described than by the existence of maggots. Really though — soft-bodied legless larva writhing around in decaying matter? Gag. One way to make it all even grosser is to imagine eating these vermin. Lo and behold, people go as far as breaking the law to do just that. Meet the maggot-filled Italian delicacy cheese, casu marzu.

Who Cut The Cheese?

A word of warning to the weak-stomached: Turn back now. Casu marzu is a Sardinia, Italy tradition that began generations ago. The stuff, whose name roughly translates to "rotten cheese," is an illegal cheese made from sheep's milk and infested with live maggots. Though the EU has banned casu marzu for some obvious health reasons, you can still pull some strings to find it on the black market (you didn't hear that from us).

Casu marzu takes months to make. First, heated sheep's milk becomes pecorino cheese that is then left out to cure for about three weeks. The cheese is then cut to invite "cheese flies" to c'mon down and lay their eggs inside. After a few months in a dark hut, the eggs hatch into larvae that eat, digest, and pass the cheese, giving the whole package a pungent odor. Yup, we're talkin' smelly maggot poop right now. They don't call it the world's most dangerous cheese for nothing. At that point, the casu marzu is ready to eat. Er, would be ready to eat, if it were legal.

Sheep in Sardinia

Why. Just Why.

To eat it, just spread 'er on some toast and dive in. Make sure the maggots are alive and wigglin' — yeah, we know — because dead maggots are a sign that the cheese has gone bad. Whatever that means in this context. And now for one more barf-worthy detail, courtesy of Mental Floss: "It is advisable when taking a bite of casu marzu to cover your eyes. This is not to protect your mind from the nauseating sight; but to protect the eyes themselves from the maggots, who can and do leap up to six inches off the cheese." Chew those maggots up real well too; living maggots in your intestines may be able to chew through your insides. We're not making this up. How lovely.

Apparently, the stuff is "good" with a strong-bodied red wine. According to a brave Food & Wine reporter, "The taste is like an extremely ripe gorgonzola, but even spicier and brighter." A cheese blogger for World According to Cheese had this to say, "It was strong, challenging, but actually very enjoyable. It hinted of gorgonzola and black pepper but left a thick film in my mouth." Yum, huh?

Casu Marzu aka Maggot-Filled Cheese - Why Would You Eat That?

Written by Joanie Faletto September 25, 2017

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