Recipes Articles Book Reviews Shopping Forum Contact

Asiago Cheese

by Patricia Guy
One thousand years ago, shepherds tending their flocks on high Dolomite slopes ate a version of Asiago. In fact, the cheese takes its name from the Altopiano di Asiago (the high plain of Asiago) where the sheep grazed. In the 16th century sheep gave way to herds of cows on the highland meadows, and cow's milk became the main ingredient in the local cheese.

There are two types of Asiago: pressato (fresh) and d'allevo (mature). Fresh Asiago is made with whole cow's milk and is matured for 20 to 40 days. It has a minimum fat content of 44%. With its compact texture and delicate fragrance of fresh milk, it makes an excellent table cheese, which keeps well in the refrigerator for around ten days. When fresh Asiago is featured in hors d'oeurves and snacks, serve it with a firmly structured dry white wine, such as a Tocai del Piave or Lugana.

Mature Asiago is made with skimmed cows milk and is matured from 3 to 12 months or even longer. It is called mezzano (medium-ripe) when it has aged for 3-5 months, and vecchio when it has aged for more than 9 months. As it ages it takes on lightly spicy tones.

It is a fine addition to an after-dinner cheese platter, where it should be served with a big, full-bodied red, like the Veneto's favorite son, Amarone, or it may be grated and used as an ingredient in main courses, where it should be served with a supple red, such as an Italian Cabernet. Mature Asiago may be stored in the fridge for around one month. The cheese-making process, carefully controlled by the Asiago Consorzio, Asiago, may only be made in the provinces of Vicenza and parts of the provinces of Padua and Treviso in the Veneto region and in the province of Trento (in the region of Trentino-Alto Adige). All true Asiago will bear the brand of the consotium on the rind.

Those intrepid Epicureans who wish to see how Asiago is made firsthand, may contact the Asiago Consorzio at asiago@asiagocheese.it before planning a trip to Vicenza. The Consorzio will happily arrange visits for those seriously interested in cheese making.

Cheesy Cream of Mushroom Soup

(For 4 people)
5.4 oz. (150 gr.) Fresh Asiago, diced
1.8 oz. (50 gr.) Mature Asiago, grated
10.7 oz. (300 gr.) Button mushrooms, sliced
10.7 oz. (300 gr.) Pumpkin, cubed
1 onion
1 oz. (30 gr.) butter
2 T. of flour
1 pt. (5 dl.) milk
parsley, chopped
salt, pepper
croutons of toasted home-made bread

Sauté the onion in butter, add the mushrooms and the pumpkin pieces. Cook for a few minutes, then sprinkle with flour and stir. After a few minutes, add the milk and stir to blend. Add an additional pint of water and the fresh Asiago. Cook over a low heat for 20 minutes. Add the grated cheese and stir until creamy. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with parsley. Garnish with croutons.

Wine Suggestion: A well-structured white, such as a Vespaiolo from Fausto Maculan, or a supple Merlot.

Copyright © 2008 Epicurean.com & Fezziwig Publishing
All rights reserved