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Ingredient Discovery: Parmigiano-Reggiano | Made in Italy
Ingredient Discovery: Parmigiano-Reggiano

All Hail the King of Cheese. Think you know what Parmesan is? Let us introduce you to the real thing.

Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano © Qualivita

Parma. It’s a city in the region of Emilia-Romagna. It’s also a prosciutto (Parma ham), and a cheese – or, as many believe, the king of cheeses – Parmigiano-Reggiano. The production of this famed hard, aged, cow’s milk cheese is closely governed by the Consorzio Parmigiano-Reggiano in order to award it Denominazione di Origine Protetta (Protected Designation of Origin) status. To proudly bear the name Parmigiano-Reggiano, it may only be made in Parma, Modena, Reggio Emilia, Bologna, and Mantova, under strictly enforced guidelines.

The making of Parmigiano-Reggiano is no joke

Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano Wheels © Qualivita

• Raw, grass- and hay-fed cow’s milk from the morning’s milking is heated, curdled, and placed into cheesecloth-lined moulds.

• The fresh cheese is then brined in a bath of water and Mediterranean sea salt for 20 to 25 days, then aged for 12 months. Every week, the wheel is turned by hand or machine.

• Each wheel is inspected by the Consorzio Parmigiano-Reggiano and is either granted the heat-branded seal or deemed unworthy of the DOP classification. After this, the cheeses are generally aged for about another two years.

Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano Wedge © Qualivita

In North America, cheeses labeled “parmesan” are most likely not the real deal; it can denote anything from a cheese-like food product to a cheese made in the same style. So look for the full name – Parmigiano-Reggiano – on the label or right on the rind. Gram for gram, authentic Parmigiano packs a flavour punch. And it’s versatile – grating it over pasta is just the beginning. Try it grated over eggs, vegetables, soup, salads, risotto, polenta and crostini. Or, pile coin-sized mounds of grated parmesan on a baking sheet, bake for about 10 mins, and you’ve got a gourmet treat: parmesan crisps. Use a microplaner for the finest grating possible. Or use a vegetable peeler and shave a few ribbons ontop of salads or cooked vegetables. It’s also a nibble of heaven on a cheese plate with a drizzle of honey. Oh, and don’t let that rind go to waste! Drop it into soup, ragù or tomato sauce for a backbone of umami flavour.

Buon appetito!

Chef Profile: Massimo Bottura
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