Asiago cheese (pronounced Ah-zee-ah-goh) was originally made in the Alps in Asiago (in the province of Vicenza) in the Veneto region of northern Italy. It is made from cow’s milk and is one of my favorite Italian cheeses. It has a DOP (controlled origin of production) therefore only milk from cows grazed in specific pastures can be used to make the cheese. However the DOP extends a bit further afield than just Asiago to include pastures around Vicenza, Padova, Treviso and Trento. When I was staying with family on the outskirts of Padova a few days ago, my cousin Laura took me to the local street market which sells local fruit, vegetables, fish, cheeses and meats.
The market is held in a different town each day of the week so you could go every day without travelling too far. This one was in a small carpark. There I was able to taste Asiago from a stall that was selling cheeses, cured meats as well as prepared fresh gnocchi, baccala’ mantecato and other goodies from the Veneto region. It felt pretty special tasting a cheese that is made from cows that are possibly in a field just down the road!
I learnt that there are three types of Asiago. The signora asked if I wanted to taste all three – absolutely! She started off by cutting me a thin slice of the fresh Asiago, which is a creamy white and aged for around 40 days. It has small holes in it and tastes sweet, nutty and creamy (photo below).
Next she sliced some partially aged Asiago (labelled Mezzano – meaning half way), which is yellower, more flavorsome and a bit drier (therefore fewer holes!). Finally I tasted the mature cheese – called Asiago d’allevo (though hers was labelled Vezzena) which is darker in colour, a bit grainier, has the strongest flavour and is aged for at least 12 months. She stacked them for me with the freshest Asiago at the bottom of the stack for the photo below.
The fresh Asiago and the Mezzano are perfect in sandwiches and salads. Use the freshest one if you like a creamier and fresher taste. The more matured one can be grated into dishes such as pasta. Of course all types can be eaten on their own or with bread.
I preferred the Mezzano, as it had the perfect balance of creaminess and flavour. So Laura bought a piece for us to have with some delicious prosciutto and her home made bread for lunch that day at her home just out of Vigonza.
For readers in Melbourne, you can find Asiago at good Italian delicatessens. I buy mine at either of the stores listed below. If you live in Veneto….well I am sure you already know where to find this delightful cheese!
143 Station Street, Fairfield
482-492 Sydney Road, Brunswick.