The full list of Italian cheese excellences protected by the European Union with the PDO mark (Protected Designation of Origin, DOP in Italian) – which certifies that every step of the production process takes place in a specific region – includes 50 different types of cheese. Among them, Parmigiano Reggiano is undoubtedly the most famous one.
Parmigiano Reggiano is produced exclusively in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna and Mantua. Its production is strictly regulated and supervised by the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium which ensures that, for a start, cattle are fed on locally grown forage without using silage, fermented feeds and animal flour. Every day, fresh milk is poured into copper vats: here it slowly coagulates with the addition of rennet and a whey starter. The curd is then broken down by the master cheese-maker into minuscule granules and gets cooked at 55 degrees C until the granules sink to the bottom of the van, forming a single mass. This is then split in half and placed in molds to form two cheese wheels. It takes about 550 liters of milk to produce a single wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano.
Be it matured for 12, 24, 36, or 40 months, Parmigiano Reggiano is characterized by a rich, granular texture, quite firm to the bite. It presents a hard pale-golden rind and a straw-colored interior with a rich, sharp flavor.
Being 100% natural, it is low in fat, free of carbohydrates, rich in proteins and also lactose-free, thus representing a tasty and healthy choice even for those people who suffer from some food intolerances.
When grated, it adds its inimitable flavor to many pasta dishes and soups, enhancing even the most simple recipes. It may be served with crackers as an appetizer or on its own a snack. It can also be used to give a well-balanced taste to mashed-potatoes, casseroles, omelets and soufflés. In Summertime, Parmigiano Reggiano shavings are traditionally served on top of thinly sliced bresaola together with some arugula, a sprinkle of lemon juice and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Alternatively, it pairs delightfully also with fresh fruit, especially apples, pears and melons.
Credit: Italian Feelings