Asiago or (Asiago d’allevo) is a partially skimmed cooked curd raw cow’s milk cheese that has an inedible brushed rind. It is produced in the Vento region of Italy near the Dolomite Mountains and has been granted DOP certification so it can only be produced in this area. The certification assures the quality of the ingredients and the production methods.
Asiago is available in three stages of aging, fresh (fresco) aged about two months, medium (mezzano) aged for three to five months and slow ripened (vecchio) aged for nine to twelve months. Asiago Fresco is neither salty nor bitter and has a slight acidity similar to that of whole yogurt. Asiago mezzano and vecchio have decisive,fl avoursome tastes with, its aromatic and salty flavour gradually increasing towards the rind, pleasantly spicy hints can be perceived in the more mature vecchio version and. its rich aroma is reminiscent of butter, yeast, dried fruits, or some say, boiled chestnuts.The fresh version has a light beige rind and interior paste that has many small holes, the aged versions have a dry grayish outer rind and an interior paste dotted with many small holes and a bone to amber color. Asiago has a fat content between 30% to 45% with the aged version having the higher fat percentage.
Fresh or ripe, Asiago cheese is a popular ingredient in the Italian kitchen. It can be enjoyed as a complement to pasta, rice, pizza,sliced on sandwiches or soups. Asiagos are wonderfully interchangeable with grated Parmesan, Romano, or aged Gouda in most recipes and are wonderful as table cheeses that can be served with hearty bread, salami, or such fruits as fresh figs or pears. The fresh version is wonderful shaved or cubed in a crisp salad.
When shopping look for a whole or partially cut wheel that has the Asiago DOP lable on it. Avoid any cheeses that have a grayish palor to the interior paste or that look old or have cracked rinds. It is usually hard to abuse this cheese but it never hurts to ask for a sample to taste so that you are getting a good serving or cut.
Wine parings: As a general rule of thumb, the older the Asiago, the stronger your wine. Pair fresh Asiago with similarly young, soft, and delicate flavours. Try white, light rosé, or dry sparkling wines such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, or a Franciacorta Brut Spumante.
Matured Asiago requires a more robust, full-bodied red wine for sipping and savouring. Try a Rioja, Cabernet, Bardolino Barolo or Chianti Reserva.
Both types of Asiago also pair nicely with non-alcoholic beverages such as cranberry and sparkling grape juice.