Saturday, June 20, 2015

Asiago ~ good cheese makes any meal gourmet!


Asiago, is a cow's milk cheese, produced only on the Asiago plateau in the Veneto foothills in Italy. The cheese-making tradition in the provinces of  Vicenza and Trento dates back to more than thousand years. Traditionally, it was made from sheep's milk but today it is produced from unpasteurized cow's milk.
Texture wise, Asiago goes through many changes, assuming different textures, according to its aging. There are two types of Asiago - fresh Asiago (Asiago Pressato) has a smooth texture while the aged Asiago (Asiago d'allevo) has a crumbly texture. Asiago d’allevo is matured for different time periods; Mezzano for 4-6 months, Vecchio for more than ten months and Stravecchio for two years. On the other hand, Asiago Pressato made with whole milk is matured for a month and sold fresh as a softer, milder cheese.
Depending on age, the rinds of Asiago can be straw colored and elastic to brownish gray and hard. The paste can be white to dark yellow, with small to medium irregular holes. Based on the aging, Asiago can be used for grating, melting, slicing on a variety of salads, sandwiches, soups, pastas, and sauce.

When I was in Italy visiting my family in Asiago, I tasted their parmesan first hand, straight from the shelf of the local cheese shop in Asiago. I also visited the family farm where they harvested the main ingredient. As you read above, traditionally they used sheep's milk but today this great aged cheese is from cow's milk.

In the blog about what a chef should have in their pantry at all times, cheese was listed. That list was given by chef Eric Damidot. It is my list as well and can and should be yours as it is basic. If I learned anything when visiting my family in Asiago, it was how to make something from very little ingredients.

Though cheese is a basic and by itself a gourmet meal, if you want to get really dramatic about dinner some evening, I highly recommend lasagne or black pepper fettuccine with wild mushrooms or ricotta ravioli, both of those dishes outstanding I had in Asiago.

The simplest and most frugal to make is the ricotta ravioli. All you need is olive oil, diced tomatoes, heavy cream, and ricotta cheese filled ravioli (buying at your local Italian shop unless you make homemade) and of course parmesan. 

Tutti a Tavola ~ Everyone to the Table!

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