Asiago is an excellent Italian DOP (a denominazione d’origine protetta, protected designation of origin) cheese. It is produced in the alpine area of the town of Asiago, province of Vicenza, in the Veneto region. It is a cow’s milk cheese that can assume different textures, according to its aging: from smooth for the fresh Asiago Pressato to crumbly for the aged Asiago d’allevo.
Pressed Asiago is produced by using fresh whole milk. After heating milk at 35 °C (95 °F), they add specific enzymes and liquid rennet. The milk starts to coagulate: whey is eliminated, curd is broken into many little parts, and then baked again at approximately 45 °C (113 °F). Later it is put into molds, dry-salted, and then squeezed with a press for about 4 hours. Then the forms are wrapped laterally with plastic bands with the mark on. After a few days spent to dry, it is brine-salted. Then it need to rest in a dry environment.
Asiago d’Allevo is produced by using a mixture of whole milk and skimmed milk. The first steps of the process are the same as those of Asiago Pressato. Then the curd is broken into many little parts, this time quite smaller, and baked again, twice. It is placed in molds, left to dry and then salted, twice. The last step is the ageing process, with storage temperature and humidity are meticulously controlled.
In cooking Asiago, besides being great simple, as a starter or second dish, can be used to make amazing first dishes. Pasta with stringy Asiago is actually excellent, like in fresh egg-fettuccine with Asiago d’Allevo, Asiago soup, Nettle risotto with Asiago and chestnut honey.
Fun fact: to perfectly store Asiago slices, you need to wrap them with some plastic wrap, keep them at about 9°C, and eat within a few days. This as regards Pressed Asiago: the more mature Asiago can be kept at a higher temperature, wrapped in a cloth.