Maybe it's because we live in the Midwest, but given a choice between a trip to the Northern Italian countryside or one to East Central Wisconsin, most of us would be flying overseas before you could say "Parmigiana Reggiano." But story has it that when Paul Sartori emigrated from the small town of Valdastico, Italy, and settled near Plymouth, Wisconsin, he recognized geography and climate similar to his native country. He was sure the area would support the art of Italian cheese-making and it seems he was right. Seventy years later, the third generation of Sartoris are still producing amazing cheese.
The next time, you're shopping for Italian cheese, consider giving one of these award-winning Wisconsin cheeses a try:
Wisconsin Asiago is a six-month aged, nutty, slightly buttery semi-hard cheese that has won prizes from the American Cheese Society. It is excellent grated over pasta dishes or risotto alongside a full-bodied red Italian wine.
The lovely parmesan-style cheese called Sarvecchio is a great way to get an Italian flavor from a local product.
Raspberry Bellavitano is a lovely cross between sharp cheddar and nutty Parmesan. It is stained a beautiful pink from its bath in another local favorite, micro brewed Raspberry Tart Ale from Wisconsin's New Glarus Brewing Company. The ale bath imparts a subtle sweet flavor, making it an excellent option as an after-dinner table cheese. It is equally good as a shredding cheese for salads or pastas.
Hand-rubbed Asiago with Rosemary and Olive Oil is medium-aged with an herb and olive oil rub that yields a savory, smooth cheese. It is ideal with crackers or shredded on grilled chicken breasts and served with Pinot Noir wine.