Asiago is an Italian cow's milk cheese that has D.O.P. status, meaning that authentic Asiago can only be produced in specific regions of Northern Italy. A popular Italian cheese, the texture can range from medium to hard based on how long the cheese is aged.
- Made from: Cow's milk
- Origin: Veneto and Trentino regions of Italy
- Aging: 1 month to 2 years
What Is Asiago Cheese?
Asiago cheese is made in the Veneto and Trentino regions in Italy and is sold in fresh and aged varieties. Fresh Asiago is white or pale yellow in color with a thin rind, and small, irregular holes throughout. It has a medium texture, like a firm sponge cake, with a delicately sweet and sour flavor and buttery aroma. Aged Asiago is pale yellow to amber yellow in color with a compact to firm texture. It has a nutty and yeasty aroma with a strong flavor.
Other countries can make Asiago-style cheese, but for the real thing, look for a D.O.P. or D.P.O sticker. Pricing can range depending on the origin and length of aging, with fresh and non-Italian-made Asiago priced quite low, and aged, imported D.O.P. Asiago fetching a high price.
Asiago vs. Parmesan
Grated or shaved aged Asiago is often mistaken for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and while they are used in similar ways, they are produced differently. Parmesan is made in the midwestern region of Italy, made to strict specifications, and aged for an average of two years. It tends to have a slightly sweeter flavor than aged Asiago. The two can typically be used interchangeably in recipes.
How Asiago Is Made
Fresh Asiago is made using whole milk, while aged Asiago is made from a mixture of whole and skim milk. Both are heated to 95 F before rennet and enzymes are added, forming curds. After being kneaded, the mixture is cooked to a higher temperature (about 105 to 115 F). For fresh Asiago, the cheese is then salted and pressed before drying for two days, soaking in a brine for two days, and then dry-aging for about a month. For aged Asiago, the curds are placed in molds and turned several times, which drains off the whey. The cheese is then either soaked in brine or rubbed with salt, and aged for a few months to two years.
Types of Asiago
Asiago is divided into two categories based on the type of milk used, and how long the cheese is aged. Fresh Asiago, also known as "Asiago Pressato," is made using whole milk and is aged for about a month. The result is cheese with a milder flavor and softer, smoother texture than aged Asiago.
Aged Asiago, or "Asiago d'allevo," can be aged anywhere from a few months to a two years. Mezzano is aged for three to eight months, and is compact with a lightly sweet, vegetal taste, Vecchio is aged for nine to 18 months and is slightly bitter with a hard texture, and Stravecchio is aged for 18 months to two full years and is hard, crumbly, amber-colored, and spicy.
Both varieties appear on cheese boards and are called for in recipes, but are used differently. Fresh Asiago is better for slicing and melting, while aged Asiago is better for grating. Asiago is typically easy to find in sliced, grated, or whole forms.
If you can't find aged Asiago cheese, Pecorino Romano or Parmesan are good substitutes. When subbing for fresh asiago, try sliced Swiss or mild white cheddar cheese.
Fresh Asiago has a medium firmness that can be sliced, cubed, or grated and melted. It's frequently sliced and used for making hot or cold sandwiches. Try serving it with crackers or bread, melting on top of casseroles or pizza, or adding to a cheesy pasta dish. Aged Asiago is typically grated or shaved. Sprinkle it on top of salads, soups, pasta, and sauces.
Wrap Asiago cheese tightly in parchment, waxed, or butcher paper and store in the meat and dairy drawer of your refrigerator. Fresh Asiago cheese should be used within two weeks, and aged Asiago can last for up to six weeks in the fridge.
If mold appears on the cheese, trim at least an inch below the mold, careful not to touch the mold with the knife, then rewrap in new paper. If the cheese turns a dark color and smells unpleasant, discard it.
Aged Asiago can be grated and frozen in an airtight container for up to a year. Once defrosted, use within a few days. The flavor will be slightly duller and the texture drier than fresh cheese.
Fresh Asiago and varieties that have been aged for under a year tend to melt well, making them good for cheese sauces and gooey dishes. Mature Asiago is better for shaving or grating and topping dishes like a salad.
Can You Eat the Rind?
Young Asiago cheese, especially fresh varieties, have a very thin rind which can be eaten or discarded. The rind of long-aged Asiago may be too tough to eat but can be added to sauces, stocks, and stews, much like a Parmesan rind.