Montasio cheese comes from the North Eastern Italian region of Friuli Venezia Giulia. The name comes from a mountain range in the Alps in this region. Montasio was first produced around 1700. The rules to make Montasio were codified by the cheese making school in San Vito al Tagliamento (Pordenone) in 1924. The cheese became a denominazione d’origine protetta (DOP) cheese in 1986. The European Union gave it a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status in 1996.
According to the rules for making Montasio, it can only come from the provinces of Friuli Venezia Giulia (Udine, Pordenone, Gorizia and Trieste) and in the bordering provinces of the Veneto (all of Trevisio and Belluno provinces, as well as parts of the provinces of Venice and Padua). To make Montasio, you must use fresh cow’s milk produced in one of these areas.
Montasio is a balanced cheese with about 32%-36% water, 32%-34% lipids and 24%-26% protein. It has three different degrees of aging, fresh, medium, and mature. There is also an Extra-Mature Montasio.
Fresh Montasio is aged just 60 to 120 days and has a mild, delicate taste. Medium is aged for 5 to 10 months and has a full bodied bolder taste. Mature Montasio is any cheese aged over 10 months which has a pleasant savory taste. Extra Mature Montasio which is much rarer is aged for over 18 months and is quite flavorful.
As Montasio ages, it becomes more granular and crumbles easier. It also tastes saltier and the rind becomes drier and darker.
Montasio can be used in many kinds of dishes from appetizers to desserts. It is also the main ingredient in one of Friuli’s main dishes – Frico.
Frico is fried cheese made into wafer thin layers which is supposed to stimulate the appetite as an amuse-bouche. It can also be made into a thicker entree using potatoes and onions.
Frico is pretty easy to make just grab some potatoes and begin boiling them with the skin on. Then cut up an onion and sautee it in a pan with some butter and olive oil. Next peel the potato, slice it and add it to the pan with the onion. Add salt and pepper and cook until potato is almost rady, add Montasio cheese and cook it until the cheese takes on a tasty golden crust. This dish is usually served with polenta or vegetables.
This easy dish can be paired with any of the great wines from Friuli. It would go particularly well with a Friulano or perhaps even a Sauvignon Blanc.