Parmigiano Reggiano is one of the oldest and richest cheeses in the world. Produced today as it was nine centuries ago, it’s steeped in Italian tradition and authenticity. Only three ingredients – milk, salt and rennet – are used to create this divine product, which is then aged to perfection to develop its flavour even further.
Made by artisans who possess unmatched cheese-making craftsmanship, the production is all-natural, without the use of additives. It’s closely controlled by strict specifications, as registered with the European Union. This is because Parmigiano Reggiano is a cheese with Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), meaning that due to its distinctive characteristics and its tie to the area of origin, it is safeguarded by a system provided by the EU to protect consumers and producers alike.
To bear the name Parmigiano Reggiano, the cheese can only be produced in the area of origin, which includes the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Mantua to the right of the Po river, and Bologna to the left of the Reno River. This means that even the milk used for the cheese has to originate in this area of origin, and all production processes from the initial phases to maturation and packaging, have to take place here, too.
It is this tie to its area of origin that gives Parmigiano Reggiano its distinctive taste that can’t be replicated elsewhere in the world. In particular, it’s the microbiological characteristics of the raw milk used that imparts a specific flavour to the cheese. This is guided by the cow’s hand-selected feed that comprises local forage, grass and hay.
The cheese doesn’t only have a superlative flavour though; its high-quality production also endows it with various health benefits. It’s easily digestible, has a high calcium content present in a bioavailable form, is free of additives and preservatives and is a source of minerals. In addition, its organoleptic pleasantness and liking make it a delight to eat. There’s no doubt Parmigiano Reggiano can be a fundamental food in the daily diet of everyone, from children to elderly people, including athletes who find in it a fully natural energy charge. Thanks to its production process, this King of Cheeses is also naturally lactose-free, from as early as 48 hours from the start of production, since all its sugar (lactose) is transformed into lactic acid by lactic bacteria.
The cheese undergoes various lengths of maturation, each of which gives it unique flavour and texture characteristics, making it very versatile in the kitchen. The minimum maturation is 12 months, but Parmigiano Reggiano reaches a degree of maturation that fully expresses its typical characteristics at approximately 24 months. It can mature up to 36 months, 48 months or even longer, acquiring unexpected and unparalleled flavours and aromas.
At the 12- 18 month maturation stage, Parmigiano Reggiano has a harmonious and delicate flavour with scents of milk, yoghurt and fresh fruit. This makes it particularly suitable for aperitifs paired with sparkling white wines, or to enrich salads and cold dishes. During the festive period, this would be the perfect addition to that welcoming cheeseboard brimming with cold meats and fruit. Pair this with a glass of bubbly, and enjoy the most magical time of year among friends and family. Or use it as part of a salad in a fresh and light Christmas starter or side dish. If you’re still looking for recipe inspiration for your Christmas menu, why not make this beef carpaccio with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese or rare beef salad with watercress, chicory, pear and Parmigiano Reggiano to whet your guests’ palates before the main course?
Once Parmigiano Reggiano has matured for 22-24 months, it becomes is soluble, crumbly and grainy with the right balance between mildness and tastiness. On the palate, it has notes of fresh fruit, nuts and meat stock. This pairs perfectly with medium-body wines and can be used to add flavour to all traditional Italian dishes, like pasta, gnocchi and risotto – all of which are the ideal meal for feeding the family on cold winter evenings this festive season. For example, try this barley, butternut squash and pancetta Parmigiano Reggiano risotto or chitarrine with Parmigiano Reggiano cream, pink pepper and aromatic herbs.
The longer maturation period of 30-36 months results in a particularly crumbly and grainy cheese. The flavour is pronounced with notes of spices, nuts and meat stock. It is an ideal ingredient for filled and baked pastas – like this anolini in meat stock – or to be savoured at the end of meals, paired with fruit and honey. You can even surprise your guests with a moreish Parmigiano Reggiano ice cream! So be sure to include some Parmigiano Reggiano in your shopping list to serve with the dessert cheese platter for your Christmas feast.
When Parmigiano Reggiano has been matured for more than 40 months, it has passed the test of time and releases pleasant scents of spices. A welcome companion to be tasted with structured and meditation wines, it’s a truly exclusive gift that can be enjoyed together with friends and family this festive season.
To find out more about Parmigiano Reggiano and for further recipe inspiration, visit Parmigiano Reggiano’s website here.