The Majestic Parmesan Cheese: From Origin to Aging

Picture this: rolling green hills, contented cows grazing under the golden Italian sun. Welcome to the land of Parmigiano Reggiano, the king of cheeses. This isn’t just any cheese; this is a labor of love, a tradition passed down through generations, and a taste of Italy’s finest.

Parma Fields

The Origin of Parmigiano Reggiano

Parmigiano Reggiano, or Parmesan cheese, traces its roots back to the Middle Ages in the regions of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, and parts of Mantua and Bologna. Legend has it that monks were the first to craft this cheese, seeking a way to preserve milk for longer periods. Their dedication and expertise birthed the Parmesan we cherish today

How Parmesan Cheese is Made

The journey of Parmigiano Reggiano begins with high-quality, raw cow’s milk from cows fed a strict diet of local forage. This milk is partially skimmed and combined with natural whey and calf rennet. The mixture is then heated and stirred, forming curds. These curds are collected, placed into molds, and pressed to remove excess whey.

After brining, the cheese wheels are aged for a minimum of 12 months, with some aging for up to 36 months or more. During this aging process, the wheels are regularly turned and brushed, developing their distinctive texture and flavor.

Certification and Quality

True Parmigiano Reggiano is strictly regulated by the Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano Reggiano. Each wheel is inspected and only those that meet the rigorous standards receive the certification mark. This mark guarantees the cheese’s authenticity, origin, and quality, distinguishing it from imitators.

Certifying Parmesan Cheese

The Aging Process

Aging is where the magic happens. Over months and years, Parmigiano Reggiano develops its complex flavors, ranging from nutty and fruity to rich umami notes. The texture transforms from slightly grainy to crystalline, perfect for grating over pasta or enjoying as a standalone treat.

Parmesan vs. Grana Padano: What’s the Difference?

While Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano may seem similar, several key differences set them apart:

  1. Origin and Production Rules: Parmigiano Reggiano is produced in a more restricted area with stricter regulations compared to Grana Padano.
  2. Aging: Parmesan is aged longer, contributing to its intense flavor and crumbly texture.
  3. Diet of Cows: Parmigiano Reggiano cows are fed a diet free from silage, while Grana Padano cows can consume silage.
  4. Additives: Grana Padano allows the use of lysozyme, a natural egg protein, as a preservative, which is not permitted in Parmigiano Reggiano.

These differences ensure that while both cheeses are delicious, Parmigiano Reggiano stands out with its unparalleled depth of flavor and texture.

Aging Parmesan Cheese

Thanking the Producers

We owe a debt of gratitude to the dedicated dairy farmers and cheesemakers of the Emilia Romagna region. Their passion and commitment ensure that each wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano is a masterpiece of culinary craftsmanship.

Come to Parma and try it for yourself!

Ready to taste the magic of Parmigiano Reggiano for yourself? Join us on our Let’s Eat Parma culinary holiday, where you’ll explore the heart of Italy’s cheese-making tradition. Experience the flavors, meet the artisans, and immerse yourself in the rich culture of Emilia Romagna. What’s more, you’ll have authentic Italian cooking lessons with Ilaria Bertinelli and explore the hidden gems sourced by Parma locals!

Let's Eat Parma!


See you in Parma!

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