Parmigiano Reggiano, the King of Italian Cheese

Parmigiano Reggiano is more than a cheese in Italy: it’s a lifestyle, a cult, a uber-food, and the ultimate mother’s remedy for all diseases! We use Parmigiano in so many ways, sometimes it’s hard to track them all!

Historical evidence shows that in 1200-1300 AD Parmigiano Reggiano cheese had reached its present production standards. However, mentions of Parmigiano are present in much earlier writings: Roman authors, writing in Latin, mention this cheese!

Parmigiano in early production in copper vats

Parmigiano Reggiano cheese wheels are the biggest in the world- each weights 39kg, 86lbs, for a diameter of 18in and a height of 9in. In stores, you will sometimes see a wheel of Parmigiano as a stand for other cheeses! Each wheel is made with 145 gallons of milk from cows fed exclusively grass and whey from a specific area included between Bologna and Parma. The usage of the term “Parmesan” in Europe is strictly regulated based on its origin and production method. In the US Parmesan is unfortunately used as a generic term and products that have nothing to do with real Parmesan can be called such. That’s’ why I like to use the term Parmigiano, to get rid of all ambiguity!

A tour in a Parmigiano making facility is a wonderful experience- from the initial copper vats process to the brining to the resting, it is a fascinating sight. The cheese wheels are seasoned for a minimum of 12 months, yielding the nuovo label for the end result. The prime age for Parmigiano is at 24 months, when it called vecchio, and any wheels left to season for more than 24 months is called stravecchio. You can find stravecchio at Costco.

Making Parmigiano Parmigiano curds starting to settle

Parmigiano in its pre-dotted shapers Parmigiano wheels in brine

Characteristics of Parmigiano are its straw-colored paste, its “scaly” texture (the cheese breaks off as if it was layered), and a salty taste typical of umami, the fifth taste. Each wheel carries its own ID that identifies the producer, the date of production, and the area where the Parmigiano comes from. To be sure you are buying real Parmigiano, look at the rind: it is supposed to be covered in pre-punched dots bearing the inscription “PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO”.

Early seasoning of Parmigiano wheels

Doctors in Italy recommends Parmigiano to children, elderly and nursing mothers, as its chemical characteristics make it highly digestible and very nutritious. We use it grated over pasta and in risotto, in scales over carpaccio, in savory cakes and gnocchi and pasta fillings, and alone (maybe with a drop of balsamic vinegar) as a snack. It is the one ingredient I can’t stand to be missing when I cook- and finding it has gotten easier and easier in the Bay Area!

A.G. Ferrari carries it, as well as Costco, Draegers, Whole Foods, Lucca, Cosentino, Zanotto, and many of the smaller specialty places. Thankfully it is not as hard as it used to be to find the original Parmigiano!! Resist the temptation to buy it grated, as often time you will not be able to tell if it is real Parmigiano you’re buying. Grab a chunk and grate it just before you need it to preserve the flavor… your dishes will shine with the addition of this royal cheese!

13 Responses to “Parmigiano Reggiano, the King of Italian Cheese”

  1. [...] mozzarella di bufala, gorgonzola, provolone, asiago, fontina, pecorino, caciotta, flakes of Parmigiano Reggiano sprinkled with aged balsamic vinegar, grilled zucchini and eggplants and porcini mushrooms, and a [...]

  2. [...] Cheeses: hard to find, like Robiola delle Langhe, and more common- but wonderful, like Parmigiano! [...]

  3. [...] already talked extensively about Parmigiano Reggiano, but where to buy it around the Bay Area? When you buy Parmigiano you need to make sure the rind [...]

  4. [...] for the food, which will range from simple chips and pretzels to sophisticated warm appetizers and parmigiano cubes sprinkled with balsamic vinegar. Buffet is all you can eat (but don’t forget the rules [...]

  5. [...] the same name. Examples of DOP products are Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale (area around Modena), Parmigiano Reggiano (around Parma), Castelmagno cheese (around Cuneo, in Piedmont) and Formaggio di Fossa (in [...]

  6. [...] few more common products, like the ever-present llly Caffe’, Parmigiano Reggiano, bronze-extruded pasta like Rustichella and ricotta and mascarpone [...]

  7. [...] is at the center of several world-famous Italian foods- Parmigiano is from here, as well as the best known prosciutto. In ancient times, Parma was a trading post for [...]

  8. [...] antipasti we picked the Parmigiano budino over buttery nettles with micro herb salad, and  carpaccio with shaved artichoke salad and [...]

  9. [...] look for it as a stand-alone food, making my fridge always only privy to mozzarella, ricotta and Parmigiano Reggiano. Nevertheless, if you like- and LOVE cheese, the Cheeseboard is the place where to [...]

  10. [...] and stronger as it ages, gaining a piquant chracteristics that makes it a good substitute for Parmigiano in some [...]

  11. [...] in a country with so many delicious cheeses, like Caciocavallo, the hundred types of pecorino, Parmigiano and Formaggio di Fossa and mozzarella, my favorite cheese is not even a real cheese. What can I [...]

  12. Howdy i viewed your internet site with my untried, special browser DeepNet Explorer and require to say you that the blog is shown up not correct like in FF 3.

  13. Yes, The KING of cheeses….
    Thank you for sharing :)

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