Provel // is a white processed cheese particularly popular in St. Louis cuisine, that is a combination of cheddar, Swiss, and provolone cheeses, and tastes nothing like any of them. Provel has a low melting point, and therefore has a gooey and almost buttery texture at room temperature. It is the traditional topping for St. Louis-style pizza. It is also often used in the preparation of cheese soup and served on salads, chicken, and the Gerber sandwich. Some restaurants use Provel for their pasta dishes with white sauce instead of the customary fresh Italian cheese and cream.
Although popular in the St. Louis area, Provel is rarely used elsewhere. It is not universally beloved even in St. Louis, where its pronounced tendency to stick to the teeth has made some avoid it. Some servers at the increasingly popular Pi pizza chain go so far as to wear T-shirts with the universal red circle-with-a-slash over the word "Provel."
According to former St. Louis Post-Dispatch food critic Joe Bonwich, Provel was invented specifically for St. Louis-style pizza more than a half-century ago by the downtown firm Costa Grocery (now Roma Grocery on the Hill, a primarily Italian St. Louis neighborhood), in collaboration with the Hoffman Dairy Company of Wisconsin (now part of Kraft Foods). Bonwich states that Provel was developed to meet perceived demand for a pizza cheese with a "clean bite:" one that melts well but breaks off nicely when the diner bites down. Neither of Bonwich's sources at Kraft and Roma had a definitive answer for the origin of the name, although one popular theory is that it is a portmanteau of the words provolone and mozzarella, two of the cheeses for which it is substituted. Another rumored name origin is that "Provel" comes from the name provolone, removing the "-one" as it is made up of more than one type of cheese.
- The Lexicon of Real American Food - Jane Stern, Michael Stern - Google Books
- Hulin, Belinda (2007). The Everything Pizza Cookbook: 300 Crowd-Pleasing Slices of Heaven. F+W Publications, Inc. p. 7. ISBN 1598692593. Retrieved September 30, 2012.
- Bonwich, Joe (2012). "Provelology: The study of a made-up cheese with a made-up name". Retrieved 2013-06-21.
- Veety, Andrew (2010). "A Brief History Of Provel". Retrieved 2013-06-21.
- STLtoday – Entertainment – Dining
- "Best use of the worst cheese: Tomato Sandwich made with Provel wins award, Best of St. Louis, Riverfront Times, 29 September 2004
- "Famous Gerber sandwich recognized", Riverfront Times, 8 October 2003