Skip to Content

What Is Asiago Cheese: Alpine Italy’s Best Kept Secret

Among all of the amazing culinary and cultural exports of the world, few bring as much joy as cheese. 

An aged asiago cheese represents a unique part of the same cultural heritage as parmesan cheese, pecorino romano, and other savory cheeses.

In Italy, a gastronomic paradise, world-class flavors are as commonplace as the beautiful landscapes that blanket every inch of the country.

From the seafood from the south to the perfectly ripe tomatoes of Tuscany and the tantalizing truffles of piedmont, few countries have access to such a breadth of flavor. 

While familiar names like parmigiano reggiano and mozzarella cheese are Italy’s claim to fame in the aged cheese world, their lesser-known cousin, fresh Asiago cheese, is one of the most useful and delicious whole milk cheeses in Italy, with a distinctly nutty flavor, granular texture, and sweet taste.

What is Asiago cheese?

Contents

Have you ever heard the saying that “Champagne can only come from the Champagne region of France?” 

Well, it’s not just wine that has these stringent regulations, but various food products, ranging from olive oil to cheese to tomatoes.
 
Asiago cheese is no different within Europe. 

To be called Asiago, the cheese must originate from specific areas within the regions of Veneto and Trentino-alto adige regions of Italy. 

The Veneto and Trentino regions sit in northern Italy, covering the canals of Venice north to the foothills of the Dolomite mountain ranges.
 
Though the regions are large, Asiago officially must have a designation of origin from a small part of these two regions at the foothills of the Alps where the namesake village of Asiago is located.
 
An Asiago DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta) is a protected region by the European Union for specialty food or beverage products. 

This protects the integrity of the product being produced.
 
Though this designation is protected within the European Union, visitors to grocery stores around the world may perceive asiago as a style of cheese, rather than a region. 

The United States and Australia are two common countries where asiago style cheese is produced, and can often be found in local grocery stores. 
 
Asiago cheese is made from whole cow’s milk, although historically, the region of asiago once used sheep’s milk, as there are pastoral plains amid the mountainous backdrop of the Italian Alps. 

Different types of Asiago cheese range from semi-hard to hard depending on the style.

What Does Asiago Cheese Taste Like?

Falling into a unique category of “alpine cheese”, fresh Asiago has a nutty, buttery and creamy texture without being too sharp.

There is an inherent freshness to the cheese that can be found across asiago and other alpine cheeses such as Emmenthal or Gruyère.
 
As the cows graze, they travel across various elevations throughout the year, thus eating a unique mixture of grass, which then affects the resulting flavors in the cheese. 

These flavors are further amplified based on the production and aging of the cheese itself.
 
The longer the aging process of the cheese, the more developed are the nuttier, slightly more complex flavors of the cheese. 

Given the varying imitations of Asiago around the world, it can be difficult to answer the question: Is Asiago a hard cheese? The answer: Yes, and no.
 
Asiago comes in two styles: The fresher, semi-soft style, and the firm aged version. 

Depending on your preference and intended purpose, it can be used for a plethora of occasions.

Substitute for Asiago cheese

It is natural to wonder whether Asiago can be substituted for parmesan and vice versa, given that parmesan is a common sight in Italian recipes around the globe. 

Asiago can easily replace parmesan and will provide a more intense, nutty flavor to your dishes.

With five or six types of cheese that we might see as acceptable pizza toppings, there are best substitutes for aged varieties with a sharp flavor, and a good substitute for the mild flavor of fresh cheese.

In pasta dishes, try the rich flavor of asiago d’allevo, a type of asiago.

For pizza, how about semi-hard cheese with a buttery flavor like manchego, or romano cheese.

How to Best Enjoy Asiago Cheese

So, you may be wondering what exactly is Asiago Cheese used for? Part of the allure of this cheese is its versatility.
 
With the complex flavors found in aged Asiago, it is best suited to stand out on its own in cheese boards, following a meal or shaved onto pasta dishes and salads where the intense flavor can amplify a dish, in a different way than pecorino or Parmigiano.
 
The fresh Asiago cheese is extremely well-suited to melting, having on its own, or to pair with a crisp mineral white wine or soft, low-tannin red wine. 

Even with fresher versions, it is a frequent question as to whether one can eat the Asiago rind.
 
While the rind itself will not cause harm, because of the fact that it has a firm outer rind that helps with aging, it is not something one would want to consume. 

However, similarly to parmesan, the rind can be put into stocks, soups and sauces to enhance complexity, salt and flavor.
 
It is natural to wonder whether Asiago can be substituted for parmesan, given that parmesan is a common sight in Italian recipes around the globe. 

Asiago can easily replace parmesan and will provide a more intense, nutty flavor to your dishes.
 
One of Asiago’s arguably most delicious uses is on pizza. 

Take aged asiago shaved over a freshly baked pizza or take fresh asiago and add it onto the pizza before baking. 

Either way, the creamy intensity of the cheese is an experience worth having.

How to store Asiago

Like all cheeses, exposure to oxygen will cause the cheese to dry out quicker, but in tight surroundings with lots of moisture, mold can develop. 

Neither of which is good for the cheese nor the cheese connoisseur.

Ideally, this cheese once cut should be kept in a cool and consistent environment in the fridge, such as the vegetable crisper or a cheese drawer.
 
Once opened, ensure to wrap the cheese in plastic wrap and ideally keep that in a container. 

Aged Asiago, as a result of the aging process, can keep in the fridge longer than fresh, although both should last a reasonable amount of time in the fridge without having to worry about mold or loss of all moisture.

Recipes using Asiago cheese

With so many uses, narrowing down a recipe can be a challenge. 

Here are a few of our favorites:

The bottom line

Though it may not be as popular as other cheeses, Asiago pressato has a strong following of fans that crave the unique salty, nutty taste of this Italian cow’s milk cheese. 

It is quickly gaining in popularity as its versatility in use and adaptability in recipes make it an easy choice for the novice cheese lover to the veteran cheesemonger.

Do you have a favorite recipe that uses Asiago? Share it with us!

Easy Calzones With Basil And Asiago Cheese

Easy Calzones With Basil And Asiago Cheese

What Is Asiago Cheese if not meant for the golden, savory, and crisp wonders of calzone you make at home?

Ingredients

  • 1 c ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 c grated aged Asiago cheese
  • 1/4 c finely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • ½ t crushed red pepper
  • 1 t garlic - minced, fresh, or powder
  • ½ t salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 package refrigerator ready pizza crust
  • 1 scrambled egg yolk, for the shiny finish
  • Optional: 1 t of sea salt for the tops
  • Optional: ½ c loosely chopped pepperoni or other cooked meat

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425•F. 
  2. In medium bowl combine ricotta and Asiago cheeses, basil leaves, and seasonings, and any optional meats you are including.
  3. On lightly floured surface, roll out pizza crust to 14-inch square.
  4. Divide dough into four squares.
  5. Divide filling evenly into fourths.
  6. Place filling on lower half of each square. It’s tempting to overfill, but avoid if possible. Fold pastry over to enclose, and with your fingers press edges together firmly to seal in a “rope” formation that looks a bit like a pie crust.
  7. Brush liberally with egg yolk mixture, then prick each calzone with the point of a knife or shears and sprinkle with additional grated Asiago cheese, salt, or optional dried parsley.
  8. Place calzones on large cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  9. Bake 8 minutes, until puffed and golden brown on top.
  10. Cool on the baking sheet for five minutes before serving.
  11. Add cups of marinara to each for dipping.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

Skip to Recipe