Real Parmesan cheese, also known as Parmigiano-Reggiano, is a hard, granular cheese that originated from Italy. It is one of the most popular cheeses in the world and is often used in various dishes such as pasta, pizza, and salads. However, not all cheeses labeled as “Parmesan” are real Parmesan cheese.

What Makes Real Parmesan Cheese Different?

Real Parmesan cheese has several distinct features that set it apart from other cheeses. First and foremost is its production process.

Real Parmesan cheese is made using only three ingredients: cow’s milk, salt, and rennet (an enzyme used to curdle the milk). The milk used must come from cows that are fed only on fresh grass or hay.

Once the milk is curdled, it is cut into small pieces and cooked at a high temperature. The resulting curds are then separated from the whey and placed into molds. These molds are then pressed to remove any remaining whey and shape the cheese.

After being molded, the cheese is then submerged in a brine solution for several weeks. This helps to impart flavor and texture to the cheese. Finally, the wheels of cheese are aged for at least 12 months in temperature-controlled rooms.

How to Identify Real Parmesan Cheese

Real Parmesan cheese can be identified easily by looking for certain markings on its rind. Authentic wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano will always have a unique identification number burned onto their rinds. This number will include information about where and when the cheese was produced.

Additionally, real Parmesan cheese will have a hard texture with a grainy consistency that crumbles easily when grated or shaved. The flavor of real Parmigiano-Reggiano is nutty and slightly sweet with hints of saltiness.

  • Tip: Look for the words “Parmigiano-Reggiano” on the cheese label to ensure that you are buying real Parmesan cheese.

Differences Between Real Parmesan Cheese and Imitations

Many cheeses are labeled as “Parmesan” in grocery stores, but not all of them are real Parmesan cheese. Some imitations may use similar production methods, but they will not have the same flavor or texture as authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano.

One of the main differences between real Parmesan cheese and imitations is that real Parmigiano-Reggiano is always made using cow’s milk, while some imitations may use other types of milk. Additionally, real Parmesan cheese is always aged for at least 12 months before being sold, while some imitations may only be aged for a few months.

The Bottom Line

Real Parmesan cheese, or Parmigiano-Reggiano, is a delicious and versatile cheese that can be used in a variety of dishes. Its unique production process and aging make it one of the most sought-after cheeses in the world. When shopping for Parmesan cheese, look for authentic wheels with unique identification numbers burned onto their rinds and avoid imitations that may not have the same flavor or texture.