How to Use Asiago Cheese in Cooking

Asiago cheese, a versatile element in the culinary world, originates from the high plains of Italy. It’s known for its distinctive sharpness and nuttiness, which intensifies as it ages.

When cooking with Asiago, you experience its remarkable ability to enhance flavors in a variety of dishes. Whether it’s freshly grated over pasta or melted into a rich sauce, this cow’s milk cheese adds a delightful depth to your meals.

A grater shreds asiago cheese over a pasta dish. A chef's knife slices through a wedge of asiago on a wooden cutting board

Using Asiago cheese doesn’t have to be complex. For a simple start, consider integrating it into your sauces. The smooth melting property of Asiago makes it an excellent choice for creating a lusciously creamy texture that clings perfectly to your favorite pasta.

Beyond sauces, the cheese’s crumbly nature when aged allows it to be a delicious topping that adds a flavorful finish to salads and soups.

In recipes where cheese is the star, Asiago’s balanced taste ensures it never overwhelms the palate. You might incorporate it into bread for a savory twist, as the cheese’s presence gives a nice contrast to the sweetness of sun-dried tomatoes in a loaf.

Alternatively, incorporate Asiago into stuffed pasta fillings, combining it with herbs and breadcrumbs for a satisfying blend that promises to elevate your cooking to new heights.

Understanding Asiago Cheese

In the realm of Italian cheeses, Asiago stands out with its rich history, distinct types, versatile flavor profile, and nutritional benefits. As you explore this cheese, you’ll discover its multifaceted nature that contributes to its popularity in culinary circles.

History and Origin

Asiago cheese has its roots in the Asiago Plateau of the Veneto region in Northern Italy. Traditionally made from cow’s milk, the history of Asiago cheese dates back to around the year 1000 AD.

Over time, Asiago gained Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status, ensuring its production process and quality remain linked to its original region.

Types of Asiago Cheese

There are two main varieties of Asiago:

  • Asiago Pressato: A fresh Asiago, known for its semi-soft and creamy texture. This cheese undergoes a shorter aging period of about one month.
  • Asiago d’Allevo: An aged cheese that becomes firmer and more crumbly as it matures. Based on the aging process, it can be further categorized:
  • Mezzano: aged 4-6 months with a more pronounced flavor.
  • Vecchio: aged 10-15 months, offers a rich taste.
  • Stravecchio: aged over 15 months, known for its intense flavor.

Flavor Profile and Texture

Asiago cheese boasts a spectrum of flavors:

  • Fresh Asiago (Asiago Pressato): You’ll find it to have a mild flavor and a creamy texture, almost resembling cream cheese.
  • Aged Asiago (Asiago d’Allevo): This variety presents a more robust and intense flavor. The texture transitions from semi-soft to firm, and eventually crumbly, corresponding with the length of the aging period.

Nutritional Value

Asiago is a source of protein and calcium, contributing to muscle health and bone strength. A serving contains essential micronutrients such as zinc, phosphorus, and vitamins A and B12.

While Asiago does provide nutritional benefits, it’s also rich in fats, so portion control is advisable for a balanced diet.

Preparation Basics

A block of asiago cheese being grated over a steaming pot of pasta. A chef's knife and cutting board sit nearby

Crafting delicious dishes with Asiago cheese begins with understanding the basics of selection and storage. These fundamentals ensure you experience the cheese’s full range of flavors and textures.

Selecting the Right Asiago

Fresh Asiago (Asiago Pressato): A younger, softer version, it has a mild and creamy flavor. Look for a pale color and springy texture, ideal for melting over dishes.

Aged Asiago (Asiago d’allevo):

  • Mezzano: Aged 4-6 months, slightly crumbly with a more pronounced taste.
  • Vecchio: Aged 10-12 months, firm and great for grating.
  • Stravecchio: Over 15 months, very firm, crumbly with an intense flavor.

When selecting Asiago, consider the age of the cheese to match the desired flavor profile and texture in your recipe. Fresh Asiago works well in softer, meltier applications, while aged variants are better suited for grating and bolder flavors.

Storing Asiago Cheese

To maintain Asiago’s quality:

  1. Wrap the cheese in parchment or wax paper, allowing it to breathe.
  2. Refrigerate in the least cold part, ideally a cheese drawer, at a temperature between 4°C to 8°C (39°F to 46°F).
  3. Airtight containers can be used for shredded Asiago to prevent it from drying out.

For longer storage, aged Asiago can be wrapped and kept in the freezer for up to six months, though it’s best used for cooking rather than fresh consumption after freezing. Remember to label the cheese with the date of storage to keep track.

Cooking Techniques

Exploring the versatility of Asiago cheese through various cooking techniques can significantly enhance your dishes with its bold flavors and smooth textures. Below are targeted methods for employing Asiago in your cooking.

Grating Asiago

To make the most of Asiago cheese, start by grating it with the fine side of a box grater for a finer melt, or the coarse side for a more robust presence in your dishes.

Use grated Asiago as you would mozzarella or cheddar, sprinkling it over salads, soups, or pastas for added flavor and texture.

Melting Asiago

When melting Asiago, consider using low to medium heat with a touch of butter or olive oil to avoid burning.

Stir continuously to ensure a smooth consistency. You can combine it with milk, cream, or heavy cream to create a rich, uniform melt suitable for fondue or as a topping for vegetables.

Incorporating Asiago into Sauces

Create luxurious sauces by incorporating grated Asiago along with ingredients like cream cheese or fontina.

Start by melting butter in a saucepan, add the cheese, and keep the heat low, stirring frequently until smooth. For a flavorful pasta sauce, season with salt, pepper, and a hint of nutmeg.

Baking with Asiago

In baking, Asiago provides a savory crust or melty middle to breads and pastries.

Place your dough on a baking sheet and sprinkle grated Asiago on top before putting it into a preheated oven.

This technique offers a crispy, golden crust with the delectable taste of Asiago. It pairs well with sun-dried tomatoes in bread or as a stuffing alongside herbs in pastries.

Asiago Cheese Recipes

Asiago cheese transforms everyday recipes into flavorful feasts with its nutty and sharp taste. Incorporate this versatile cheese into a variety of dishes, from aromatic bread to rich main courses.

Asiago-Infused Breads

Experience the delightful combination of asiago cheese with bakery creations.

For an eye-catching bread appetizer, try baking a loaf of sun-dried tomato and asiago cheese bread. Begin by kneading grated asiago into your dough along with chopped sun-dried tomatoes. Bake until the crust is a golden hue and enjoy the satisfying crunch against the soft interior.

  • French Bread: Slice French bread, sprinkle with olive oil and grated asiago, and bake until golden for a perfect starting dish.
  • Polenta: Mix asiago into polenta for a creamy side; bake on a buttered sheet for a crispy top layer.

Pasta and Risotto Dishes

Pasta and risotto dishes gain decadence with the addition of asiago.

  • Creamy Asiago Cheese Tortellini: Garnish your tortellini with a rich asiago alfredo sauce made from butter, garlic, and heavy cream.
  • Risotto: Stir shredded asiago into your risotto, allowing the cheese to melt and infuse the rice with a creamy texture and tangy flavor.

Main Courses with Asiago

Asiago cheese enhances the taste and adds moisture to a variety of main courses.

  • Asiago Chicken: Coat chicken breasts with a topping made of mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, and shredded asiago, then bake until juicy.
  • Pizza with Asiago: Top your pizza dough with tomato sauce, asiago cheese, spinach, onion, and prosciutto for a flavor-packed meal.

Asiago Appetizers and Sides

Start your meal right with asiago-centric appetizers and sides, or add a cheese twist to classic sides.

  • Asiago Dip: Combine asiago with cream cheese, spinach, artichokes, and garlic for a warm, inviting dip. Serve with crusty bread or vegetable sticks.
  • Potato Sides: Enhance roasted potatoes with a sprinkle of asiago cheese and fresh parsley before serving.

Pairing Asiago with Other Foods

Asiago cheese’s robust flavor and versatility make it an excellent addition to various foods, enhancing flavors and adding a gourmet touch to your dishes.

Asiago cheese sits alongside bread, grapes, and nuts on a wooden cutting board, ready to be paired with other foods

Asiago in Salads

When you mix Asiago cheese into a salad, it brings a sharp, nutty flavor that pairs well with crisp greens.

Try shaving thin slices of Asiago over a spinach salad dressed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a sprinkle of garlic. This combination highlights the cheese’s taste without overpowering the freshness of the greens.

  • Ingredients to pair with Asiago in salads:
    • Spinach
    • Garlic
    • Olive oil
    • Sun-dried tomatoes

For a more complex taste, add some sun-dried tomatoes, which provide a tangy counterpoint to the cheese’s richness.

Asiago with Fruits and Meats

Combining Asiago cheese with fruits and meats opens up a world of culinary possibilities. You’ll find that the cheese’s bold profile complements the sweetness of fruits and the savory depth of meats excellently.

  • Pairing Asiago with fruits and meats:
    • Fruits: Pears, apples, figs
    • Meats: Prosciutto, salami, roast chicken

Pair thin slices of Asiago with prosciutto or salami for an appetizing antipasto, or top a roast chicken breast with melted Asiago for a delectable finish.

The cheese also creates a delightful contrast when served with sweet fruits such as pears or apples. If you enjoy wine, a glass of bold red pairs nicely with these combinations, balancing the flavor profiles impeccably.

Creative Uses

Asiago cheese being grated over a steaming bowl of pasta, with a sprinkle of freshly chopped herbs on top

Exploring the versatility of Asiago cheese in your kitchen can transform simple dishes into gourmet experiences. The nutty taste and creamy texture of Asiago make it a go-to for elevating recipes.

Asiago Alternatives in Recipes

In many instances, you can substitute Asiago cheese where commonly used cheeses like Parmesan, Romano, or Pecorino Romano might play a role. Here’s a brief guide when considering alternatives:

  • Parmesan: Asiago Pressato, the younger version of Asiago, has a semi-soft texture similar to fresh Parmesan wedges and offers that coveted buttery flavor.
  • Romano/Pecorino Romano: Replace with aged Asiago, known as Asiago Stravecchio, for a more pronounced and complex flavor in your pastas and salads.
  • Cream Cheese/Mozzarella: For a dip or spread with a twist, mix creamy Asiago with Greek yogurt and lemon juice to achieve a balance of tartness and buttery notes.

Remember that Asiago stravecchio has an elastic texture, useful when you crave something that melts well with an unforgettable aroma.

Innovative Flavor Combinations

Asiago cheese is not just about substituting; it’s about creating new flavor profiles. Elevate your culinary creations by combining it with unexpected partners:

  • Sweet and Nutty: Pair Asiago with fruits like figs or pears to accentuate its rich and nutty taste, suitable for both savory and sweet applications.
  • Herbaceous and Earthy: Incorporate chopped fresh herbs or sun-dried tomatoes into your Asiago dishes for an earthy, hearty dimension.
  • Savory and Salty: For an umami-packed punch, consider adding bits of prosciutto or bacon to Asiago-based sauces or stuffed shells.

Frequently Asked Questions

A block of asiago cheese being grated over a steaming bowl of pasta, with a chef's knife and cutting board nearby

As Asiago cheese becomes a mainstay in kitchens, understanding its versatility is key. These targeted FAQs give you insights into adding Asiago’s distinct flavor to your culinary creations.

What are some classic pasta dishes that incorporate Asiago cheese?

You can use Asiago to create a rich, creamy sauce for fettuccine or fold it into a classic lasagna for a sharp, nutty flavor that stands out amidst the other cheeses and sauces.

Which chicken recipes are enhanced by the addition of Asiago cheese?

Enhance chicken Parmesan by substituting Asiago for a bolder taste. Or, top your grilled chicken with a sprinkle of grated Asiago to complement its natural flavors.

Can Asiago cheese be used in bread recipes, and if so, how?

Incorporate shredded Asiago into your bread dough before baking for a cheese-infused loaf, or sprinkle it on top of rolls before placing them in the oven for a golden, cheesy crust.

What are some appetizers that feature Asiago cheese as a primary ingredient?

Create Asiago cheese crisps by baking small heaps of the cheese until they’re crunchy, or stuff mushrooms with a mixture of Asiago, breadcrumbs, and herbs for a tasty bite-sized treat.

In what ways can Asiago cheese be used as a substitute for Parmesan in recipes?

You can replace Parmesan with Asiago in pesto or as a finishing touch on pizzas and soups. Asiago provides a similarly salty bite but adds a creamier, tangier edge to your dishes.

What accompaniments pair well with the flavor profile of Asiago cheese?

Pair Asiago with figs, grapes, and apples for a cheese board. You can also match it with robust red wines and hoppy beers to balance its rich flavor profile.

Follow Us
Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
Follow Us