Parmigiano-Reggiano, called Parmesan in
the English language, is a hard granular cheese, cooked but not pressed,
named after the producing areas of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, and
Bologna (all in Emilia-Romagna), and Mantova (in Lombardia), Italy.
Parmigiano is the Italian adjective for Parma. Parmesan is the French-language
name for it and also serves as the loose term for the cheese in the English
language. The name Parmesan is used for cheeses imitating Parmigiano-Reggiano,
with phrases such as Italian hard cheese adopted to skirt legal constraints.
Parmigiano-Reggiano is made from raw cow's milk.
Traditionally, cows have to be fed only on grass or hay, producing grass fed
milk. Only natural whey culture is allowed as a starter, together with calf
The only additive allowed is salt, which
the cheese absorbs while being submerged for 20 days in brine tanks saturated to
near total salinity with Mediterranean sea salt. The product is aged an average
of two years. The cheese is produced daily, and it can show a natural
variability. True Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese has a sharp, complex fruity/nutty
taste with a strong umami flavour and a slightly gritty texture. Inferior
versions can impart a bitter taste.
Gourmets consider Parmigiano-Reggiano a
splendid "table cheese" for eating not merely for grating. In Emilia-Romagna it
is often paired with pears and walnuts and enjoyed at the end of a meal. Many
consider it to be at its best at 24 to 30 months, when it is still soft and
crumby, with tiny crunchy spots from the crystallised salt, yet rich and complex
Uses of the cheese include being grated
with a grater over
pasta, stirred into soup and
risotto, and eaten in chunks
with balsamic vinegar. It is also a key ingredient in
alfredo sauce and