4 Parmigiano Reggiano facts you probably didn’t know

By TASTE, 4 July 2004

We bet you’ve added a heap of grated Parmigiano Reggiano to pasta, pizza, maybe even fries, but how much do you know about this classic Italian cheese? From its origins in Italy over 1 000 years ago to how to enjoy it today, here are a few facts you probably didn’t know about Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

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Just three ingredients – milk, salt and rennet – and, of course, eight centuries of cheese-making experience and history, go into every wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano. If you want to uncover the centuries-old secrets of how this iconic cheese is made, read on.

1. Passion and expertise

Parmigiano Reggiano is still made the same way it was centuries ago. Today, as in the Middle Ages, the cheese is made using natural methods and no additives. At the turn of the 20th century, some important innovations were introduced, such as the use of fermented whey and steam heating.

2. If it's not from Parma, it's not Parmigiano Reggiano

Parmigiano Reggiano is produced exclusively in Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena and Bologna to the left of the Reno River. The cattle on farms in these regions are fed locally grown forage, which is important for achieving the flavour Parmigiano Reggiano is known for.

3. The production process

It takes about 550 litres of milk to produce each wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano. The milk coagulates with the addition of rennet and a whey starter, which is rich in starter cultures.

4. It's all about timing

The minimum maturation time is 12 months, the longest among all the PDO cheeses. Only at this point can each wheel be assessed to determine whether it's worthy of the name. Thereafter, the cheese will continue to mature for up to 24, 36, 40 months and longer.

ALSO READ The good and the grate: 3 Parmigiano Reggiano recipes you have to try this season

Sharp, nutty and full of flavour, once you taste Parmigiano Reggiano, you’ll never go back. Here’s how we use it in quick and easy mains and sides that deliver tons of flavour with little effort.

Borlotti bean-and-Parmesan salad

You don't have to wait for braai season to enjoy a bean salad. Toss together borlotti beans, anchovies and olives, and dress in a lemony vinaigrette that packs a punch and pairs wonderfully with dill. Add a few shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano for saltiness and a hint of nuttiness. This salad can be enjoyed as a light lunch or as a side with your favourite meat and veg.

Get the recipe for borl0tti bean-and-Parmesan salad here.

Cheesy pan-fried gnocchi with crispy Parma ham

Move over mac n cheese, there's a new cheesy pasta dish in town! If you've never pan-fried your gnocchi, now's the time to start. The outside turns golden and crispy, while the inside remains pillowy and soft. Toss through a thick and creamy Parmigiano Reggiano sauce and top with crispy Parma ham – or forgo the meat for a meat-free dinner.

Get the recipe for cheesy pan-fried gnocchi with crispy Parma ham here.

Photography: Sadiqah Assur-Ismail

Production: Abigail Donnelly

Food assistant: Cheri Kustner

Find more cheese recipes here.

Masterfully made in Italy with the same passion, expertise and dedication as it was in the 12th century, Parmigiano Reggiano remains true to its heritage and taste. Artisanal cheesemakers use traditional methods of production distinctive to the area of origin to create the only authentic Parmesan cheese.

Shop at Woolworths. 

TASTE

Article by TASTE

The TASTE team is a happy bunch of keen cooks and writers, always on the look out for the next food trend or the next piece of cake.
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