Differential Quality and Price

  • The terms Parmigiano Reggiano (US) and Parmesan (US) are interchangeable, but they are different.
  • It has strict laws regarding the production and aging of Parmigiano Reggiano in Italy.
  • Most cheese labeled “parmesan”It is possible to find imitations of Parmigiano Reggiano in the United States.
  • Visit Insider’s Home & Kitchen Reference library for more stories.

It’s rare for a passionate discussion about Italian food to be without cheese. A conversation about Italian cheese is incomplete without mentioning Parmigiano Reggiano, the most famous of all Italian cheeses.

You might call ParmigianoReggiano parmesan in the US. You’ll have seen them both at your local grocery shop.

While parmesan has become synonymous with Parmigiano Reggiano — often used interchangeably from recipe to recipe — the two cheeses are not the same. Why? Because real Parmigiano Reggiano has been made to the highest standards.

When you buy “parmesan” in the US — whether it’s blocks, grated, or the powdery stuff found in green plastic cylinders — you’re not buying Parmigiano Reggiano. It is difficult to replicate Parmigiano Reggiano.

What is it that makes Parmigiano reggiano so special, and how does it compare against its well-known imposter Parmesan?

What is ParmigianoReggiano?

Block of parmesan on the left next to a block of Parmigiano Reggiano on the right.

Parmigiano Reggiano (right), a hard Italian cheese, has a distinctive granular texture and parmesan (left), is an American-made hard dairy.

Kristin Montmarano/Insider

Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is hard-fermented cheese made from cow’s milk. Italy has a long, rich tradition of winemakingThis first appeared in Middle Ages when monks started aging wheels of cow’s milk cheese to avoid food waste.

Parmigiano Reggiano has been made nearly exactly the same way for centuries. This makes it an ancient delicacy. Cheese producers have a vision of how cheese should feel, look, smell, taste, and feel.

Parmigiano Reggiano has a light yellow color and a crumbly, granular texture. It is rich in umami and has a distinct salty-nutty flavor, which can sometimes be fruity or grassy. However, it also contains a hint of sweetness. This diversity of flavor has earned Parmigiano Regigiano the title: “The best.” “king of cheeses.”

“In every fridge in Italia, there is always Parmigiano [Reggiano],”Dino Borri, global vice president of EatalyThe cheese’s shelf stability, versatility and unique taste are the reasons for its continued presence.

What is it that makes Parmigiano Reggiano special?

To be stamped with the official Italian label Parmigiano Reggiano, Parmigiano has to comply strictly with legal requirements Denominazione d’ Origine ProtettaDOP stands for Protected Designation of Origin (PDO).

First and foremost, cheese must be made in Emilia Romagna in northern Italy, specifically in Parma, Reggio Emilia Modena Bologna, Modena and Modena.

Parmigiano Reggiano starts with unpasteurized milk from cows. Those cows must be raised according to certain standards. The Emilia Romagna region is the only one that feeds the cows hay and grass. This provides beneficial bacteria for the cheese-making process.

“There are different breeds of cows that make the Parmigiano [Reggiano],”Borri “For us, each product, each producer, each cow, has their own taste.”Borri says that every batch of Parmigiano Reggiano can be slightly different due to the season, plants, producers, cow breeds and other factors. But, it still retains its fruity and nutty core.

Other than the specific area of origin and the production location, the law also dictates additional specifications such as strict ingredients guidelines (only milk, salt and calf-rennet), quality standards (each and every wheel must be inspected and certified by an inspector). consortium), and aging requirements (a minimum of 12 months).

“[Parmigiano Reggiano] cannot be younger than 12 months. You can age it from 12, to 25, to 56 [months], sometimes even super old,”Borri said. Borri says that every type of aged Parmigiano Reggiano Reggiano in Italy can be used differently. As such, each cheese has a distinct flavor profile.

These restrictions help preserve the cheese’s unique quality and flavor.

How Parmigiano Reggiano is made

The process of making Parmigiano Reggiano starts in large vats where whole milk and skim milk are combined. The milk is stirred with a spino to separate the granules. Cook the milk slowly until the solids are incorporated to form a ball. Then, it is divided in half and wrapped in cheesecloth before being shaped into a mold.

The cheese is then stamped with the DOP dots markings once it has been inserted into the mold. It is then placed in a salt bath for a few days to form the rind. It is then placed on shelves for at least 12 months to age after it has been removed from the saltwater. The cheese will continue to ferment during aging and salt crystals will form to enhance its grainy texture.

What is the difference between parmesan and other cheeses?

Parmesan is an English translation of Parmigiano Reggiano. The two products may not be the same, however.

While Parmigiano Reggiano enjoys protected status in the European Union — meaning only Parmigiano Reggiano with the DOP stamp can be sold under the name “parmesan” — those laws do not apply in the US.

Although parmesan and Parmigiano reggiano are commonly regarded as being the same thing around the world, it’s not true here in the USA. The law does not protect cheeses sold under this label. “parmesan.” Because the product of origin requirements are not applied to parmesan cheese in the US, parmesan lacks the consistent flavor and essential quality control its Italian counterpart has, Borri says.

Parmesan cheeses are made in the USA using similar methods to Parmigiano Reggiano. Despite the similarities, Parmigiano reggiano is not made with the key elements, such as bacteria strains, breeds or cows and ingredients, that give it its distinctive flavor.

Can you substitute ParmigianoReggiano with parmesan?

Rind of parmesan (left) vs Parmigiano Reggiano (right).

Kristin Montmarano/Insider

However, you can canAlthough you could theoretically substitute ParmigianoReggiano for parmesan cheese it is important to know that parmesan does not represent authentic ParmigianoReggiano.

It’s worth buying Parmigiano Reggiano if a recipe calls.

“They are two different products,”Borri “When you buy Parmigiano Reggiano you know there are some specific characteristics.”Due to the less stringent rules of origin and production, it’s difficult to predict how parmesan’s flavors will appear in food.

Borri recommends reading the label of Parmigiano Reggiano if Parmigiano Reggiano is not an option. This will allow you to determine if it was made in a local or artisan setting. The flavor of hard cheeses with a longer age will be more noticeable. Borri suggests that you ask a cheesemonger to suggest a substitute or something local if you aren’t sure.

Borri suggests buying less if you are looking for an affordable replacement. “Buy less, buy better. Usually with Parmigiano Reggiano you don’t need too much.”Borri also points out that Parmigiano Reggiano can be purchased with a longer age to extract more flavor from the cheese.

Insider’s takeaway

Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is a hard cheese, with distinctive flavor characteristics. It has been made in the same region of northern Italy for many centuries. It must meet strict requirements to be classified as a DOP product in Italy. It must also meet regional requirements. Only certain cows are allowed to use it. Only certain factories can produce it.

Because they are different products, Parmigiano Reggiano is not compatible with parmesan. Parmesan cheese is not required to adhere to the same standards as Parmigiano Reggiano in the USA. This means that the flavor characteristics will be different.

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