Parmigiano Reggiano is produced exclusively in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena and parts of the provinces of Mantua and Bologna, on the plains, hills and mountains enclosed between the rivers Po and Reno. It is an Italian hard, granular cheese that is produced from cow’s milk and has aged 12–36 months.
The minimum maturation is 12 months, but Parmigiano Reggiano reaches a degree of maturation that fully expresses its typical characteristics at approximately 24 months. It can mature for up to 36, 48 months or longer, acquiring unexpected and unparalleled flavours and aromas. In maturation, thanks to the action of the enzymes released by lactic bacteria, proteins are broken down into smaller pieces, free peptides and amino acids – the basic bricks of the protein chain. This action of protein breakdown determines the structure and sensory properties of Parmigiano Reggiano and its high digestibility. The 28 months aged Parmigiano Reggiano is known as the “The King of Cheeses’’
There are fascinating journeys which take us through places and times, stories and traditions to stir our emotions and feelings.
And sometimes the best part is the return trip. That is how it is with Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Its unique and inimitable taste is the return from a long journey through nine centuries of history, passing through a fertile countryside stretching from the Apennines to the river Po, through farms and dairies where there is still a passion for things made with care, through the maturation rooms where the best of what man can produce slowly matures presenting us with an unmistakable gift of nature.
Parmigiano-Reggiano is an extraordinary cheese with amazing aromas and taste and a unique texture.
Many people think that Parmigiano Reggiano is just a fancy name for a Parmesan cheese. However, Parmesan cheese and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese are not the same.
So, what is the difference between Parmesan Cheese and Parmigiano Reggiano? The difference between these cheeses is that Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is the real deal, and Parmesan cheese is an imitation of the real Parmigiano Reggiano.
According to the trademark laws in Italy, the cheese cannot be called “Parmigiano Reggiano” unless it’s made in Italy according to a specific recipe. Parmigiano Reggiano is always made in Italy, while the Parmesan cheese can be made anywhere else – there are no restrictions on the name “Parmesan”. Parmesan cheese is produced to try to duplicate the flavour of “Parmigiano Reggiano”.
A wheel of parmesan cheese can cost over $1,000 and has an average weight of 88 pounds, which means it cost over $11 per pound.
Parmesan cheese is a big business for Italy. An average of 3.6 million wheels are produced each year, and the industry is worth an eye-popping 2.2€ billion ($2.5 billion), making this cheese one of Italy’s biggest exports.
A single wheel takes at least one year to age, 131 gallons of milk to make, and it can only be made in a restricted area in northern Italy, in the region of Emilia Romagna. Its Italian name, in fact, Parmigiano Reggiano, means ‘from the cities of Parma and Reggio Emilia’.
How to select
- It is sold in blocks, spray or individually wrapped slices.
- It should be too crumbly or dry with the colour relatively uniform.
- Always check for discolouration and mouldy spots.
- Parmigiano Reggiano is usually yellowish and breaks in a sliver like a pattern.
- It is always advisable to buy a whole wedge instead of the pre-grated as the whole wedge holds more flavour and texture better.
- Best served grated on pasta or as an appetiser.
- Great for snacking.
- Flavourful in melted dishes such as soups and sauces.
- Can be added to omelettes, pizzas, souffles, au gratins and fondues amongst others.
- Can be paired with fruits, beef jerky or biltong.
How to store
- It should always be wrapped and kept in the warmest section of the refrigerator.
- The softer the cheese, the shorter amount of time it will keep fresh.
- Concentrated source of nutrients as it is a by-product of milk, high in calcium.
- Contains large amounts of phosphorus, zinc, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and vitamin A.
- It is a dense source of high quality protein.