Asiago cheese provides a delightful alternative to Parmesan, adding a unique twist to simply roasted asparagus. Any crispy bits of cheese sticking to the baking sheet are a special treat!
No doubt, Parmesan cheese is a dependable workhorse in the kitchen. From chicken Parm and pesto to risotto, Italian-style soups, and even popcorn, versatile Parmesan adds flavor to a seemingly endless list of foods.
Its shelf life is long, and the flavor has wide appeal. Who doesn’t love a dusting of this aged nutty cheese atop a plateful of spaghetti and meatballs?
Think of Asiago cheese as Parmesan’s somewhat more mature sibling.
The two cheeses are similar enough to be interchangeable in many instances. At the same time, the flavor profile of Asiago will bring something just a bit different to the table.
Asiago’s Italian roots can be traced back to the 10th century and the village of Asiago d’Allevo, which is northwest of Venice and still exists today. The area was known for its pastures, where sheep grazed freely. Not surprising, wool and cheese were the main commodities.
By the 15th century, cattle began replacing the sheep. Eventually, cow’s milk became the standard ingredient in the production of Asiago cheese, an evolution that remains the standard today.
Like many cheeses, Asiago is sold at various degrees of maturity. So, what does that mean in terms of taste and texture?
What does Asiago cheese taste like?
The Italian cow’s milk cheese has a flavor reminiscent of Parmesan, but it’s somewhat nuttier and creamier. The cheese if often described as buttery and, occasionally, fruity.
When fresh, Asiago is semi-soft and mild flavored. When aged for upwards of 9 months, the texture becomes harder and somewhat crumbly, and the flavor becomes sharper.
When removed from its wrapper, the aroma is strong. But don’t let that pungency scare you away!
When cooking for a small group recently, several in the crowd assumed they wouldn’t like the cheese based on its smell. When they tasted the following asparagus recipe, however, to which the cheese had been added and briefly broiled in the final minute or two of cooking, they were pleasantly surprised.
In fact, few of the cheesy spears were left for dinner, as they were eaten as finger food right off baking sheet! (Fun fact: the lemon strategically filling the gap in the top photo reveals where sticky fingers were before the photos were finished!)
Much like Parmesan, Asiago cheese can be grated on pasta, pizza, and salad. It’s rather tasty eaten alone as well.
When making a cheese plate with a soft, medium, and hard cheese, Asiago serves as a lovely choice for the latter.
The quick step-by-step:
- 1 good-size bunch (about 12 ounces) asparagus, tough ends snapped off
- Olive oil or olive oil spray
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- ½ cup (2 ounces) freshly grated asiago cheese (may eyeball)
- lemon slices, optional
Preheat the oven to 425℉.
Place asparagus on a lightly greased baking sheet and coat very lightly with olive oil. You want just enough to make the salt and pepper stick but not enough to make it soggy. Sprinkle the asparagus with the salt and pepper to taste.
Roast the asparagus until almost done but not quite as cooked as you want it to be. Depending on thickness, this could take anywhere between 4-12 minutes. Prick the thick end with the tip of a knife to check; you should have a hint of resistance.
Remove the asparagus from the oven and sprinkle with the asiago cheese. Broil for 1-2 minutes, watching closely, or until the cheese is melted and turning golden brown.
Squeeze a bit of lemon juice overtop and garnish with lemon slices, if desired.
Recipe first posted May 18, 2012