The vintage Italian cheese you need for Christmas

  • makes 40
  • Easy

Throw an authentic Italian dinner party this Christmas with help from Grana Padano  


Looking for a cheesy Italian entertaining idea for the festive season? No Christmas feast is complete without cheese – and one that deserves a spot on your shopping list this year is Grana Padano. The world’s best-selling PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) cheese, Grana Padano is made using a technique developed centuries ago, so you can be confident of its quality, authenticity and traceability.

Grana Padano comes in three different vintages. One is aged between nine and 16 months, another more than 16 months and Grana Padano Riserva more than 20 months. The latter also undergoes further quality testing, and is emblazoned with the famed ‘Riserva’ fire-branding.

These different lengths of maturation give a variety of notes and flavours, allowing this delectable cheese to complement a wide variety of recipes and wines. The younger Grana Padano is mild and creamy, but the older the cheese gets the more developed and rich a taste it has. When serving Grana Padano on a cheeseboard pair it with mostarde (Italian fruit chutneys), honey, grapes and pickled walnuts.

Surprisingly, Grana Padano’s production and ageing processes make it lactose-free, and just 30g of the cheese offers the same nutrition as a pint of milk. Naturally high in protein, it also contains iron, vitamins A, B2 and B12 and minerals such as zinc and calcium (50g of Grana Padano contains 60% of the calcium RDA for an adult).

Try it for yourself this Christmas and impress your guests with Italian chef Francesco Mazzei’s recipe below.

Grana Padano cheese

Grana Padano ciabatta dumplings



  • whole milk 500ml
  • crustless ciabatta 250g
  • chives 2 tbsp, roughly chopped
  • dill 2 tbsp, roughly chopped
  • flat-leaf parsley 2 tbsp, roughly chopped
  • marjoram or thyme 2 tbsp, roughly chopped
  • garlic 1/2 clove, chopped
  • Grana Padano Riserva 150g, grated, plus 1 tbsp to serve
  • eggs 3
  • dried breadcrumbs 60g
  • Tabasco to taste
  • vegetable oil for deep frying


  • avocados 3 small, chopped into small chunks
  • Tabasco a splash
  • Dijon mustard 1 tsp
  • Worcestershire sauce 1 tsp
  • lemon 1, juiced and zested
  • red chilli 1/2 small, deseeded and chopped
  • olive oil to serve


  • Step 1

    To make the dough, pour the milk into a bowl and soak the bread for 10 minutes. Squeeze to remove excess milk and let the bread rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, add all of the remaining dough ingredients, except the vegetable oil, to a food processor. Add the soaked bread and pulse until mixed together. Divide the dough and roll into 40 small balls. Heat oil no more than 1/3 full in a pan until it reaches 180C on a thermometer or until a cube of bread browns in 30 seconds. Carefully add 10 dough balls to the pan and fry until they are golden. Drain on kitchen paper. Repeat in batches of 10.

  • Step 2

    To make the dip, put the avocado in a food processor and blend with the Tabasco, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, salt and pepper until you have a creamy mixture. Transfer to a bowl and top with the red chilli and a drizzle of olive oil.

  • Step 3

    Serve the dumplings garnished with the lemon zest and Grana Padano Riserva, and the avocado and chilli dip on the side.