Americans seem to be getting more open in their willingness to try different types of cheeses, so it’s a shame that most only know Asiago as the semi-melted cheese on their bagel or Wendy’s sandwich, when it’s actually one of Italy’s finest cheeses.
The only authentic Asiago is produced around the alpine area of the Asiago Plateau, in certain provinces within the regions of Veneto and Trentino-Adige in Italy (The village of Asiago is in the northern part of Veneto). It’s a protected designation (Denominazione di Origine Protetta). Asiago is a cow’s milk cheese and can assume different qualities from smooth when fresh (Asiago Pressato) to grainier when aged (Asiago d’Allevo).
Asiago Pressato has a smooth texture and mild, creamy flavor similar to kefir or buttermilk. This is the predominant type of Asiago exported to the USA. It’s good for breakfast drizzled with honey or at a dinner party on a charcuterie board with nuts and sliced apples or pears. Fresh Asiago melts really well and is great on sandwiches or melted into cheesy pasta sauces.
Asiago d’Allevo has a sharper, richer flavor with notes of nutty caramel. Cube aged Asiago and drop it into minestrone for gooey little surprises or grate it on top for more flavor. It is wonderful baked into breads, shaved onto salads, or eaten on its own while sipping a fine Chianti or Amarone red wine.
Look for the words Asiago spelled out on the rind when shopping for authentic Asiago cheese; This is the best way to tell your Asiago is really from Italy. Buon appetito!