How to eat Parmigiano Reggiano cheese like an Italian
Sure, it’s delicious grated over your favourite dishes, but this wonderfully versatile hard cheese can be savoured in so many other ways too...
Nothing epitomises Italian cooking quite like Parmigiano Reggiano. The world-famous cheese is made with just three ingredients and is lovingly crafted using the same techniques and production methods that were established by the monks who first created it almost 1,000 years ago.
Indeed, when it comes to food, the Italians know better than anyone that there is beauty in simplicity and that some traditions should never be lost. Right down to the grating, this delicious PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) cheese continues to be made solely in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena and Mantua to the right of the river Po and Bologna to the left of the river Reno in northern Italy.
Its inimitable taste owes largely to the raw milk used from local cows (who graze exclusively on natural vegetable feeds), along with impressively long maturation times. Each wheel must be aged for at least 12 months – the longest of all PDO cheeses – and pass strict tests from the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium before it can be branded with its iconic mark.
Formed in 1934, the Consortium works to protect, defend and promote the cheese – and only its experts are able to certify whether or not a wheel is up to scratch. After tapping it with a hammer, the quality inspector’s trained ear is able to detect any defects that may compromise quality.
If the wheel meets their high standards, the end result is a crumbly, full-flavoured cheese that is as deserving of a place on your cheeseboard as it is on top of your favourite pastas and salads. You just need to choose the vintage that’s right for you…
Parmigiano Reggiano with a lower maturation time has a delicate aroma of milk, yogurt and fresh fruit. It’s particularly well-suited for pairing with aperitifs and sparkling white wines, or enhance its flavour with mild fruit chutneys, such as kiwi, apricot or melon for a snack.
At this age, the cheese is crumbly and grainy – striking the right balance between mildness and tastiness. It bears delicate notes of fresh fruit, nuts and meat stock and goes great with a medium-bodied wine. If you clean the rind, it can also be added to vegetable soups or creams to intensify their flavour.
The cheese boasts a bouquet of savoury scents, from spices and nuts to meat stock. Its crumbly texture and rich flavour will contrast perfectly with honey and fruit at the end of a meal. Its longer maturation also makes it a good match for walnuts and hazelnuts.
40 months or more
An older Parmigiano Reggiano is one that has truly passed the test of time. Packed with a heady scent of spices, it’s often given as a special gift and works well with a selection of wines and also complements the sweetness and slight acidity of balsamic vinegar.