Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Rediscovering Asiago, Italian Style Cheese of the Week

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Rediscovering Asiago, Italian Style Cheese of the Week

Article excerpt

Asiago Fresco

Taste **

Aroma *

Price *

Asiago is an Italian cow's milk cheese with a controlled area of production, around the town of Asiago, north of Venice, just inside the Italian Alps. The controlled area of production, however, does not stop there from being many "asiagos" made elsewhere in the world, particularly America.

Like American Parmesan, some are good, but most tend to be not so good.

The wheels weigh around 25 pounds, are very firm and nearly indestructible. Age on the cheese varies from a month to a year, but most of what we see is in the medium-to-aged category and is fairly sharp, especially the American versions, which can taste downright rubbery and industrial.

I spent two years as a chef in an Italian pasta restaurant, and we always kept imported Parmigiano, Pecorino Romano and Asiago freshly grated. Italian Asiago is a good cheese, but of the three it was my least favorite. When it comes to my own pasta, I'll choose either Parm or Pec every time.

But recently I tried soft and moist Asiago Fresco, imported from Italy, and that's a whole different cheese.

Now there is some disparity out there about where Asiago Fresco falls among the different types of Italian Asiago cheese.

Everyone agrees that in Italy they make two kinds of Asiago - pressato, which is made with whole milk, pressed into molds under high pressure, and kept that way for a couple of days to speed the brief aging process. After only a few more days of aging the mild, buttery cheese is ready to ship and eat.

The other type is d'allevo, which is more traditional, made from partially skimmed milk and permitted to age up to one year.

The question is whether Asiago Fresco is simply another name for pressato, or whether it is the more traditional d'allevo type, but which has only been aged for a month or so.

Most sources - even those I somewhat puzzled out in Italian - refer to pressato and fresco as the same cheese, which began to be produced about 20 years ago, and the d'allevo as an aged variety.

However, the utterly respected cheese guru and my personal hero Steven Jenkins, in his 1996 Cheese Primer, refers to fresco as d'allevo that has not been aged, and pressato as a (then) fairly recent Italian innovation that at that time was not exported. …

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