I am starting a theme with quick food guides (like Tuscany) to each region so that my readers who travel to Italy, can actually know what the heck is in the deli cases when they inevitably visit a food market. And if you go to Italy without interest in visiting a food market, then there is something wrong and you should please leave my blog. Oscar Wilde said it best: “I can’t stand people who don’t take food seriously.”
The Veneto is a small region located in the north east of Italy, home to famous cities like VENICE and VERONA and Treviso. The region is the 5th most populous region in Italy and the capital is you guessed it: Venice. The region, to me, is a little underrated in terms of food and wine. Venice- I love the Venetian food and drink culture! Prosecco- did you know the stuff also comes from the Veneto? In fact some of the best Prosecco comes from the Valdobbiadene which is just north of Treviso. And have you ever heard of a little place called Padua (Padova)? This area of the Veneto is home to a couple of wine satellites such as Bagnoli and Colli Euganei which produce significant Bordeaux style blends (think Cab, Merlot) and some aromatic, bright white wines that range in dryness and sparkle. I could write a whole post about the wine here- I particularly enjoy red wine from the Valpolicella (which is near Verona) like Amarone and Ripasso. I mean, the Veneto could put Tuscany under the water for its enogastronomy!
What does this have to do with cheese? Well, as they say: What grows together, goes together. And I am wholeheartedly in favor of food and wine pairing and gastronomic identity. Now that you have a small intro to wines of the region, now here is a quick guide to the cheeses of the Veneto:
Asiago d’allevo DOP: What does DOP mean? It means that it is an area that is protected for gastronomic heritage for that unique product. This type of Asiago is produced in the province of Vicenza, Trento and some parts of Padova and Treviso from heritage breeds of cattle in the mountains. This cheese can be semi-aged to produce a compact, straw colored buttery smooth cheese or fully aged to be hard, crumbly, sweet yet complex. Some term the stravecchio (aged) to be fragrant and aromatic. In general, Asiago is traditionally produced in the Veneto and there are artisan forms of it which differ from the commercial, soft varieties most commonly found in Italian cheese sections abroad. The artisan form of Asiago cheese is perfect with prosecco or a chardonnay from Bagnoli.
Asiago Pressato: Another Asiago, this type is contrary to the d’allevo variety. In the sense that it is softer, young and mostly produced in the plains from the provinces of Trento and Vicenza. During the cheese making process, the milk “paste” as I like to call it, is flushed to rinse away the brine it was previously curdled with and then pressed to make a densely, elastic soft young cheese that most of the world knows asiago as. This kind of cheese is perfect to melt on toasts and pairs well with more flavorful foods since it is pretty milky and buttery on its own. Pair this with a light Merlot from the Veneto or…Prosecco.
Formaio Ubriaco: A cheese from cow milk, of age-old tradition (no pun intended:), means drunken cheese. Why drunken? Well, usually rind cheeses are soaked and treated with oils. In times of scarcity when oil was in limited quantities, farmers would instead turn to the grape pulp leftover or wine must from wine pressing during the Vendemmia (wine harvest season which occurs in the fall). In this case, usually from Merlot and Cabernet grapes. This cheese is of particular interest to me since I am obsessed with cucina povera techniques, the creative ways that Italians got around hard times. The ultimate expression of l’arte di arrangiarsi. This cheese is compact, dry, aromatic, a tad piquant, pleasing and smooth. Have this cheese with one of the Bordeux-style red blends from Colli Euganei.
Schiz: Also known as Tosella, this cheese from the scenic province of Belluno (in the Eastern Dolomites!) is a very bland, fresh milky cheese with a tofu-like consistency. Why is this cheese on my list? Well, because it is versatile, typical to local cuisine and pretty common to see in the shops. To me, this is the cheese to cook! Slice it and grill it. Top with salt and pepper and a good balsamic glaze. Or, this cheese can be grilled and likewise served with grilled polenta. Sprinkle some truffle salt on top for you gourmets out there. Pair with an aromatic white from the Dolomites.
Ricotta Affiumicata: Although ricotta is not typical to the Veneto, this style of smoked cheese is found in the plateau “prealps” of Belluno and Treviso, Cansiglio. It is pretty young and usually takes a month to prepare. The flavor is quite strong and can be enjoyed on its own. Smoked Ricotta has a compact, crumbly salty interior and a robust, mesquite “woody” rind. If you are getting smoked ricotta in the Veneto, it will more than likely come from heritage alpine cattle. This cheese can be crumbled on gnocchi or on grilled radicchio salads. I would be curious to have this as a ravioli filling, too. I recommend a Sauvignon Blanc to match.
In your cheesy curiosity,
Interested in visiting the Veneto? As part of my concierge consult services in Italy, I can arrange a cooking class, cheese tasting tour or even a prosecco wine tour. Contact me for more options for exploring the foods and wines of the Veneto.
this post was inspired by: Italian Food, Wine & Travel: #ItalianFWT
Thank you for reading up on our 1st Italian Food, Wine & Travel event by various bloggers from around the globe! This month’s theme was on the Veneto, but it doesn’t stop here. Follow along with some other great blogs featuring different aspects of living in the Veneto and what it has to offer.
Vino Travels – Sensational Soave
Cooking Chat – A Valpolicella for Grilled Swordfish and Eggplant Pasta
Food Wine Click – Veneto Food & Wine from Half a World Away
Curious Appetite – Traditional Artisan Cheeses
Just Elizabeth – Venetian Shadows
Italian Journeys – Asolo and Basana del Grappa
Monica Cesarato – Veneto Off the Beaten Path
Make sure to join our bloggers conversations on Twitter throughout the day at #ItalianFWT . We also post on #ItalianFWT throughout the month so feel free to join us all the time and share your Italian experiences! Make sure to check back on December 6th for our 2nd Italian Food, Wine & Travel event. Next month’s feature will be Piedmont!