What Is Parmesan Cheese Called?

Parmesan cheese is called “Parmigiano-Reggiano” in Italy. This iconic Italian cheese has a rich history and is known for its distinctive flavor and texture.

The name “Parmigiano-Reggiano” is protected by European law, which means that only cheeses produced in specific regions of Italy can bear this name.

The Origin of Parmigiano-Reggiano

History: Parmigiano-Reggiano dates back to the Middle Ages when monks in the region of Parma and Reggio Emilia began making this hard cheese. They used local milk, a centuries-old recipe, and traditional production methods to create a cheese that could be aged for long periods without spoiling.

The monks considered it a valuable source of nutrition, especially during periods of fasting.

Production Process

Ingredients: Parmigiano-Reggiano is made from three simple ingredients – cow’s milk, salt, and rennet (a natural enzyme).

Milk Collection: The milk used to make Parmigiano-Reggiano comes from cows that graze on specific grasses and herbs found in the designated production areas. The cows’ diet contributes to the unique flavor profile of the cheese.

Cooking and Curdling: The collected milk is heated and then combined with rennet to initiate curdling. Once curdled, it is cut into small granules using special tools.

Cheese Molding: The curds are then placed into large molds lined with characteristic marks that identify the producer. These molds help shape the cheese into its recognizable wheel form.

Salting and Aging: After molding, the cheese is immersed in a brine solution to enhance its flavor. It is then transferred to aging rooms, where it matures for a minimum of 12 months.

Some Parmigiano-Reggiano wheels are aged for up to 36 months or more, resulting in a more intense and complex flavor.

The Characteristics of Parmigiano-Reggiano

Texture: Parmigiano-Reggiano has a hard and granular texture. The aging process creates small crystalline fragments within the cheese, giving it a delightful crunch.

Flavor: The flavor of Parmigiano-Reggiano is rich, nutty, and savory. As it ages, the cheese develops deeper flavors with hints of caramel and dried fruit.

Uses of Parmigiano-Reggiano

Culinary Applications: Parmigiano-Reggiano is incredibly versatile in the kitchen. It can be grated over pasta dishes, risottos, soups, and salads.

The cheese also pairs well with fruits like pears and figs or can be enjoyed on its own as a delicious snack.

Tips for Buying and Storing Parmigiano-Reggiano

  • Look for the Markings: When buying Parmigiano-Reggiano, look for the characteristic markings on the rind that indicate its authenticity.
  • Freshly Grated: For the best flavor, buy whole pieces of Parmigiano-Reggiano and grate it yourself.
  • Proper Storage: Store the cheese wrapped in a clean cloth or wax paper in the refrigerator. It can last for several weeks if stored correctly.

Conclusion: Parmigiano-Reggiano, often referred to as Parmesan cheese, is a true culinary gem from Italy. Its rich history, traditional production methods, and distinctive flavor make it a favorite among cheese lovers worldwide.

Whether you’re grating it over your favorite pasta dish or enjoying it on its own, Parmigiano-Reggiano adds a touch of Italian excellence to any meal.