Like most of my friends a meal of pasta with tomato sauce and grated parmesan on top is a weeknight staple. And-- we assume the cheese we buy at the local grocery store labeled "parmesan" is the real deal. Boy, have I been schooled!
Did you know that true parmesan cheese is actually called Parmigiano Reggiano? In fact it's the only one made with raw milk in the Parma region of Europe, and aged for 24 months. Whew knew?? Just as "Italian" means from Italy, "Parmesan" means from Parma. I'll never look at "parmesan" cheese from my local grocer the same.
The nice folks over at the Parmigiano Reggiano Consorzio sent me the most delightful gift basket full of cheese for the holidays, and each block of cheese had these interesting and very official looking stamps and labels on them. I was intrigued.
They sent me some information about authentic Parmigiano Reggiano in my package, and once I tasted it-- I was hooked! It tastes so much richer and more intense than the American counterparts, and a little bit goes a long way.
My glorious cheese came from Valserena, a small producer in the Parma region of Italy, distributed in the U.S. by Ditalia. There are only about 350 authentic Parmigiano Reggiano producers in Europe, and it was so special to think about all the hands and hours involved in making my little wedges of heaven.
One interesting fact I've learned is that there is no protection on the name parmesan, so U.S. cheese makers can make a style of cheese similar to Parmigiano Reggiano and call it parmesan. In Europe the name Parmigiano Reggiano is highly protected and only the approved producers in Italy are able to make this cheese in a very specific part of the country and following very strict production techniques that have been used for almost 1000 years.
How do you know if your cheese is authentic Parmigiano Reggiano?
Unlike other hard grating cheeses using the name "parmesan", authentic Parmigiano Reggiano has to be aged a minimum of 12 months (most are 24 months) and made with nothing by raw milk, salt, and natural rennet. But-- there are some simple things you can look for to make sure your cheese is authentic: (1) Make sure it's made in Italy, and (2) Look for the signature pin dots on the rind. Easy peasy!
Interested in how it's made?
The Parmigiano Reggiano Consorzio has some great information on how this special cheese is made: https://parmesan.com/craftmanship/how-to-make-parmesan-cheese/
Cheers to upping your game on pasta night and your next charcuterie board. My favorite way to eat my Parmigiano Reggiano? Atop a delicious rosemary flavored cracker and a dollop of raw honeycomb from Savannah Bee Co. I'll definitely be adding Parmigiano Reggiano to my refrigerator drawer of staples for when friends drop by for nibbles.
This post and content is sponsored by the Parmigiano Reggiano Consorzio; however, the opinions are my own.