How is the difference between Parmigiano Reggiano and Parmesan Cheese: here’s how to defend yourself from counterfeiting and always choose the original product.
Much more than just a name, Parmigiano Reggiano is a dry hard cheese made from skimmed or partially skimmed cow’s milk.
This is characterized by a hard golden yellow rind and straw inside with a rich and harmonious flavour.
Closed this necessary introduction, let’s see together what are the various ages of Parmigiano; yes, because, if you still don’t know, not all Parmigiano is the same: there are many differences and a lot depend precisely on how long the cheese matures.
- Red sticker identifies Parmigiano Reggiano over 18 months of aged; tasting this Parmigiano Reggiano, will feel the taste of milk, along with vegetal notes, such as grass, boiled vegetables and, sometimes, flowers and fruit.
This type of Parmesan is ideal for aperitifs: just cut it into cubes or flakes and it goes well with a dry white wine but also with fresh fruit, such as apples and green pears.
- Silver sticker is associated with Parmesan with over 22 months of aged; on the palate, notes of melted butter and fresh fruit, with slight hints of citrus and dried fruit, are crumbly, grainy and well-soluble, sweet and tasty.
How to taste it? Cut it into petals and use it to season fresh fruit or vegetable salads, perhaps together with a few drops of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, dried fruit, plums and figs.
The right wine? A medium-bodied red.
- Gold sticker is assigned at Parmigiano aged over 30 months otherwise known as “Stravecchio“; the flavour is decisive and complex: on the palate, the notes of spices and dried fruit are felt, it is dry, crumbly and grainy and is even richer in nutrients compared to the lower seasonings.
How to match it? With flavoured honey or a few drops of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena accompanied by red wine with a high body and structure or a white Passito.
- On the market, in specialized shops or in factory outlets, you can find Parmigiano Reggiano with years and years of seasoning behind it: some producers have come to season Parmigiano even for 70 – 100 months (or more), however, it is rarities, intended for connoisseurs or sophisticated gourmets.
For completeness of information, we add that the minimum seasoning of Parmigiano is 12 months, therefore, if a product sold as Parmigiano Reggiano should happen to you but with a seasoning of less than a year, avoid to buy it: without doubt, it is not Parmigiano Reggiano.
If you want to save some money, remember that you can buy also the Parmigiano Reggiano “Mezzano” variety, the second category Parmigiano – be careful, it is not waste: Mezzano has the same exact organoleptic characteristics as traditional Parmigiano.
What makes a Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese?
The words Parmigiano-Reggiano stencilled on the rind mean that the cheese was produced in Italy in one of the following areas: Bologna, Mantua, Modena, or Parma (from which the name of this cheese originated).
According to Italian law, only the cheese produced in these provinces can be stickered “Parmigiano-Reggiano” and European law classifies the name, as well as the translation “Parmigiano”, as a protected designation of origin. In Italy, the DOC (Controlled Designation of Origin) laws are designed to preserve the integrity of traditional Italian food products by ensuring flavour and quality.
So within the European Union, according to the CDO regulations, Parmigiano and Parmigiano-Reggiano are the same cheese.
Parmigiano is primarily used for grating and in Italy are termed grana, meaning “grain,” referring to their granular textures.
Within Italy, cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano are also called grana.
Many of these cheeses are delicious in their own right, an example is the Grana Padano cheese.
The name Parmigiano is used in parts of Italy for grana cheeses that don’t meet the protected designation of origin requirements for Parmigiano-Reggiano, such as specific areas of production, what the cattle eat, lengthy ageing and so on.
Parmesan is the English and American translation of the Italian word Parmigiano-Reggiano.
There is also evidence that in the 17th to 19th centuries Parmigiano Reggiano was called Parmesan in Italy and France.
In the U.S., the word “Parmesan” is not regulated.
A cheese stickered as Parmesan in the U.S. might be genuine Parmigiano-Reggiano, but it’s more likely to be an imitation.
Most U.S. versions typically age a minimum of 10 months.
Parmesan cheese is also made in Argentina and Australia, but none compares with Italy’s preeminent Parmigiano-Reggiano, with its granular texture that melts in the mouth.
Parmesan cheeses in other countries have comparatively lax regulations.
Does “Imitation” Parmigiano taste as Good?
A cheese stickered as Parmesan in the U.S. that is not genuine Parmigiano-Reggiano still can be a tasty cheese.
Many artisanal cheesemakers are making high-quality cheeses that are inspired by Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Many large cheese producers sell decent Parmesan.
Is the flavour as complex as genuine Parmigiano-Reggiano?
You be the judge: buy both and taste them side by side.
Pre-grated Parmesan is available but in no way compares with the freshly grated cheese: save your money, please!