Are you a cheese lover wondering if Asiago cheese melts?
Look no further! This nutty-flavored Italian cheese is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes. Whether you’re making a cheesy pasta sauce or topping a salad, Asiago can add a delicious touch to your meal.
But does it melt well? The answer is yes, but it depends on the age of the cheese. In this article, we’ll explore the different types of Asiago cheese and how to use them for optimal melting.
Plus, we’ll share tips on how to ensure a smooth and creamy sauce every time. So grab your cheese grater and let’s get started!
Does Asiago Cheese Melt?
As mentioned earlier, Asiago cheese does melt, but the melting point varies depending on the age of the cheese. Fresh Asiago and varieties aged for under a year tend to melt well, making them perfect for cheese sauces and gooey dishes. On the other hand, mature Asiago is better for shaving or grating and topping dishes like a salad.
Italian Asiago comes in two varieties: pressato or fresco (young, smooth, and firm, with a mild appeal); and d’allevo or vecchio (aged, dry, and Parmesan-like). While the aged version is an ideal grater, for a smooth melt, seek out pressato. Good alternatives include Monterey Jack and colby.
Asiago is a semi-hard cheese made of partially skimmed cow milk, curdled with rennet and acid. All these give it a fair meltability. While it may not be the best cheese for melting like American cheese, Asiago certainly gives satisfying oozes too. Asiago is produced similarly to Parmesan, and they both melt well.
What Is Asiago Cheese?
Asiago cheese is a hard Italian cheese made from cow’s milk. It has a unique flavor that is nutty with a slightly sweet aftertaste. The texture of Asiago cheese is crumbly, making it perfect for grating or shaving. There are two varieties of Asiago cheese: pressato or fresco, which is young, smooth, and firm with a mild appeal, and d’allevo or vecchio, which is aged, dry, and Parmesan-like. The aged version is an ideal grater, while the fresh variety is perfect for melting. Asiago cheese is produced similarly to Parmesan, and both cheeses melt well. Asiago cheese is widely used in Italian cuisine and can be used in many different recipes, such as salads, soups, pastas, and sauces. It is also a popular snacking cheese and pairs well with salami, good bread, and an amber ale. The production of Asiago cheese has spread around the globe, and the term “asiago” describes a style of cheese that can be produced anywhere.
The Different Types Of Asiago Cheese
Asiago cheese comes in various types, each with its unique flavor profile and texture. Fresh Asiago, also known as “Asiago Pressato,” is made using whole milk and is aged for about a month. This results in a milder flavor and softer, smoother texture than aged Asiago. Fresh Asiago is better for slicing and melting, making it perfect for dishes like grilled cheese sandwiches, pizzas, and pasta dishes.
Aged Asiago, or “Asiago d’allevo,” can be aged anywhere from a few months to two years. Mezzano is aged for three to eight months and has a lightly sweet, vegetal taste with a compact texture. Vecchio is aged for nine to 18 months and has a slightly bitter taste with a hard texture. Stravecchio is aged for 18 months to two full years and has a hard, crumbly, amber-colored, and spicy texture. Aged Asiago is better for grating or shaving and topping dishes like salads or soups.
Extra-aged Asiago cheese is also available in the market. Fresco Stravecchio is aged for over 18 months and has a hard texture with small crystalline grains and an intensely flavored taste. Staggio is aged for 24–36 months, resulting in an extremely hard cheese with an incredibly strong flavor. Vecchio Riserva is aged for 36–48 months and has an extremely hard texture with an intense, nutty flavor.
Age Matters: How Aging Affects Melting
Age plays a crucial role in how well Asiago cheese melts. Fresh Asiago, which is typically less than six months old, tends to have a higher moisture content than the aged variety, making it easier to melt. The same goes for Parmesan cheese, where some varieties may be aged for over 36 months. However, as cheese ages, the protein structure changes, leading to a decrease in meltability. This is because the protein structure becomes clumped more tightly together, creating a tight barrier that prevents the cheese from melting well.
Moisture is not the only factor that affects how cheese melts. The state of its protein, specifically its network of casein protein, also plays a significant role. In freshly made cheeses, casein proteins are in tightly wound clusters, allowing for little interaction with one another. As cheese ages, it goes through a process called proteolysis, in which bonds between individual casein molecules are broken down, allowing the clusters to unwind and bind with other casein molecules, forming a matrix. Early in this process, the matrix is flexible, allowing young cheeses to melt smoothly. With time, the proteins bond together tighter, forming a stronger network that requires more heat to melt and is less flexible when melted. This can result in more separated fat and clumps.
To test this theory, Cabot Creamery cheddars aged for three, 16, and 24 months were baked on top of inverted metal cups that were preheated in a 175-degree oven until each slice had melted. The three-month-old cheddar melted smoothly and evenly flowed down the cup’s sides. Meanwhile, the 16-month-old cheddar showed signs of clumping as it slid down the metal, and the 24-month-old cheese actually broke into two large pieces and never melted.
Using Asiago Cheese In Cooking
Asiago cheese can be used in various ways in cooking, adding a deeper level of flavor to the dishes where it is used. Here are some ideas on how to use Asiago cheese in your cooking:
1. Pasta dishes: Fresh Asiago cheese is great for melting into pasta dishes, adding a creamy and nutty flavor. Try it in mac and cheese or fettuccine Alfredo.
2. Sandwiches: Fresh Asiago cheese can also be used as a sandwich filling, adding a tangy and savory flavor. It pairs well with roasted vegetables and meats.
3. Salads: Aged Asiago cheese can be grated on top of salads, adding a salty and nutty flavor. It pairs well with arugula, spinach, and other leafy greens.
4. Quesadillas: Asiago cheese can be used in quesadillas for a unique twist on the classic dish. Its mild flavor pairs well with spicy ingredients like jalapeños and chorizo.
5. Cheese sauces: Asiago cheese can be melted into cheese sauces, adding a nutty and tangy flavor. It pairs well with other cheeses like cheddar and Gouda.
When using Asiago cheese in cooking, it’s important to keep in mind its melting point and choose the right variety for the dish you’re making. Fresh Asiago is better for melting, while aged Asiago is better for grating or shaving. Overall, Asiago cheese is a versatile ingredient that can add a delicious twist to your favorite dishes.
Tips For Melting Asiago Cheese Perfectly
If you want to melt Asiago cheese perfectly, there are a few tips that you should follow. These tips will help ensure that your cheese melts smoothly and doesn’t become lumpy or grainy.
1. Bring the cheese to room temperature before melting it. This will help it melt more evenly and prevent it from clumping together.
2. Grate or finely chop the cheese before melting it. This will help it melt faster and more evenly.
3. Thicken the sauce or dish before adding the cheese. This will help prevent the cheese from clumping together and becoming grainy.
4. Heat the cheese only until it has melted. Overheating can cause the cheese to become hard and release fat, which can make your dish lumpy.
5. If you’re having trouble getting your Asiago cheese to melt smoothly, try adding a liquid like milk or water to help it melt faster. Only add a small amount of liquid, no more than 1/2 tablespoon per serving.
By following these tips, you can ensure that your Asiago cheese melts perfectly every time. Whether you’re making a cheesy pasta dish or a gooey grilled cheese sandwich, melted Asiago cheese is sure to add a delicious depth of flavor to any recipe.
Recipes To Try With Melted Asiago Cheese
If you’re looking to add a deeper level of flavor to your dishes, try cooking with melted Asiago cheese. Here are some recipes that use Asiago cheese in fantastic ways:
1. Baked Asiago Cheese Dip: This quick and easy dip recipe is perfect for a party. Mix Asiago cheese, cream cheese, and bacon together, bake it in a cast-iron skillet or pie dish, and serve with baguette or crackers.
2. Asiago Grilled Cheese Sandwich: This sandwich takes the classic grilled cheese to the next level by adding prosciutto and cantaloupe melon. Simply assemble the sandwich with thin slices of Asiago cheese, ham, and melon, and cook it in a pan with butter until golden brown.
3. Apricot and Walnut Asiago Cheese Spread: This recipe is as simple as it gets. All you need is crackers, Asiago fresco cheese, apricot jam, and walnuts. Swap out the jam and nuts for other varieties if you prefer.
4. Homemade Cheese Sauce: This sauce consists of melted Asiago cheese, milk, a roux made up of butter and flour, and the seasonings of your choice. It’s incredibly simple and so delicious! Use it as a topping for pasta or vegetables.
No matter which recipe you choose, melted Asiago cheese is sure to add a nutty and tangy flavor to your dishes. Give it a try and see for yourself how versatile this cheese can be!