Italian Cheese Pairings with AOP Agriform
Excuse me for being cheesy, but I enjoy a good Italian cheese!
Well, I love ANY cheese, but Italian cheeses absolutely have a special place in my heart.
A pivot that has come with this pandemic has been virtual food and drink tastings, leaving us food lovers the opportunity to explore and be educated while staying safely at home.
I’ve heard of many Italian cheeses before, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano and Asiago, but I was unaware that there were levels to Asiago, such as Stagionato and Fresco. Not only did I try Montasio and Piave for the first time, I had not even known of their existence prior to this tasting!
A few important points, according to AOP Agriform:
- All cheeses are PDO (protected designations of origin). According to AOP Agriform: PDO “is a trademark given by the European Union to products whose quality or characteristics depend essentially or exclusively on the territory in which they were produced and therefore cannot be imitated outside a determined production zone.”
- All cheeses in this tasting are from Northern Italy. For example, “The production area for Grana Padano PDO extends throughout Northern Italy and generally coincides with the territories of the Po Valley region north of the Po river. It covers 5 regions from Piedmont to Veneto and down part of Emilia Romagna.”
- Each cheese has its own specific timeline for aging. “Asiago Fresco must be aged for at least 20 days at a temperature of around 50-59° F with humidity level of 80-85%” within its region. Asiago Stagionato, on the other hand, can be aged for as few as two months and over 15 months, the aging process broken down into specific levels such as Asiago Stagionato mezzano (4 – 6 months of aging), Asiago Stagionato vecchio (10 – 15 months), and Asiago Stagionato stravecchio (over 15 months).
Chef Carlo Bigi – currently the Executive Chef as Sleepy Hollow Country Club while previously working at The Bowery Hotel, Casa Levar, and Sant Ambroeus – crafted a master at-home tasting experience that’s rather unparalleled to any at-home tasting I’ve had during this past year. His knowledge of the cheese coupled with his mastery of how to match flavors created something special.
His pairings came as follows:
- Grana Padano with Pumpkin Mostarda & Toasted Seeds
- Piave with Red Onion Ginger Chutney & Marcona Almonds
- Montasio with Port Wine Cranberry Compote & Crispy Kale
- Parmigiano-Reggiano with Aged Modena Balsamic & Asian Pear
- Asiago Fresco with Spicy Green Grapes & Shiso Leaves
- Asiago Stagionato with Chestnut Honey & Roasted Hazelnuts
It’s hard to pick a favorite pairing, but if I had to, I’d give it to the Asiago Fresco with Spicy Green Grapes & Shiso Leaves the top prize. I love shiso leaves, often ordering shiso & plum rolls from my local Japanese I find them to be tangy and crisp yet cleansing; pairing it this cheese, which was relatively robust in flavor, was on point. This is a pairing I’d make for myself at home! It’d be a much needed upgrade from simple cheese and crackers. Ha!
Plus, this tasting came with a Negroni that damn near knocked my socks off! She was potent, but that is definitely not a complaint. 🥃😉
Thank you to Chef Bigi for crafting this masterful cheese pairing experience, as well as providing me with some new education about the creation of this PDO Italian cheeses.