Hard-style cheeses are well aged, easy to grate and keep well for long periods of time. They likely originated in Italy with the production of Parmesan and Romano. Other hard-style cheeses include Asiago, Cotija, Grana and Kasseri. To produce hard cheeses, cheese makers cut curds into pieces the size of corn kernels to allow moisture to escape. Hard cheeses are cooked in whey at higher temperatures than other cheeses. They require long curing times, often at least six months but sometimes years, to achieve full flavor and a granular texture.
Here are the qualities of three common hard-style cheeses:
- Parmesan maintains a sweet, buttery, nutty flavor that intensifies with age; it is always aged more than 10 months.
- Romano is creamy white in color with a hard, granular texture. Its products possess a sharp, tangy, assertive flavor. Romano is made with part-skim cow’s milk.
- Asiago develops a sharp, buttery and nutty flavor when it is aged and turns to a hard, granular texture.
- Grate Asiago over flatbread dough and bake.
- Grate hard-style Italian cheeses over salads, soups, vegetables, pasta and pizza.
- Add grated Parmesan to hot garlic mashed potatoes or risotto, or serve chunks drizzled with a quality balsamic vinegar.
- Hard-style Italian cheeses can be added to breading to coat chicken, fish or vegetables.
- Goes well with apples, pears, figs, dried fruits, pasta and rice.