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I used to think Parmigiano Reggiano was just the full Italian way of saying parmesan. I’d sound it out in my best Italian accent and consider myself fancy referring to any parmesan this way. Boy, I was wrong!!
Thankfully, I learned the difference in time to make my famous Italian Chopped Salad Board. Read on to see why Parmigiano Reggiano is truly special and most definitely stands apart from other cheeses. Personally, I can’t wait to use it on more boards soon!
What is Parmigiano Reggiano?
First off, Parmigiano Reggiano is a distinct type of parmesan, only made in a small region of Italy. You know how not any sparkling wine can be called champagne? It’s very similar to that.
By law, a cheese can only be called Parmigiano Reggiano if it comes from this specific region and is made by very rigorous ingredient and culturing standards (more on those below).
Parmigiano Reggiano vs Parmesan
Parmesan is a hard, aged Italian cheese. It is rich with nutty and umami notes, and is often used more sparingly because of it’s full flavor. It’s commonly grated on top of a pasta dish, or sprinkled on salads. It’s also great to snack on by itself and pairs well with most wine and fruit.
Unlike other parmesans, which may or may not have honest ingredients, Parmigiano Reggiano is guaranteed to be made under strict standards and regulations.
- It’s 100% natural with no preservatives
- It ONLY has three ingredients (milk, salt, rennet)
- Fun Fact: It’s naturally lactose-free
There’s really no reason not to enjoy the best!
One characteristic of all long-aged, hard cheeses (like Parm Reg) is the flavor crystals inside. Crystals not only add extra crunch to cheese (sometimes they are imperceptible), they are also what gives the cheese a distinct sharpness. Sometimes the crystals are white and noticeable and sometimes they are scarce, but mostly they are very small little flavor bombs.
Look for the Parmigiano Reggiano Wheel & Dotted Rind
How can you tell if it’s really Parmigiano Reggiano? It will have the distinct dot pattern on the rind that says “Parmigiano Reggiano.” That’s the signature that you’ll know it’s the real-deal cheese.
It’s pretty much a baller move to have a big hunk of it out on the table (with the rind on it!) so that your guests can see that you only serve the good stuff cheese. I know I’m going to do that moving forward (wink, wink).
Can you use Parm Reg on a Cheese Board?
Absolutely. Look at this beautiful cheese plate with Parmigiano Reggiano by my friend Dale Gray from The Daley Plate. Make sure it’s at room temp and cut slices in advance to make it easier on your guests. Then, enjoy with bread, charcuterie and other Italian accoutrement.
Parm Reg Alternatives if You Dare
There are certainly other cheeses that have similar flavor profiles, but you’ll notice they don’t have the same signature rind, and they are definitely not the same as Parmigiano Reggiano. These include:
- Grana Padano
- American Grana
Don’t get me wrong, these are still great cheeses; they’re just different.
Parmigiano Reggiano Pairings
This cheese goes with just about anything. Because the flavor profile is so distinct and strong, classic pairings include brighter, acidic or sweet, mild food.
Some combinations you might want to sprinkle it on:
- Arugula and strawberry salad
- Butternut squash or pumpkin soup
- Roasted herbed chicken
- Figs drizzled with honey
- Citrus-grilled shrimp
- Any kind of pasta!
To Grate or Not To Grate?
Slices worked great on the cheese plate above. But when it comes to salads or pasta dishes, I suggest grating larger Parmigiano Reggiano flakes. Because it’s a hard cheese be sure to use a heavy duty cheese grater.
However, feel free to purchase already grated at places like Whole Foods where it’s grated and . It’s much less work, however you won’t get to show off your fancy rind.
What to do with Leftover Parmigiano Reggiano Rinds?
Please don’t throw those rinds away! This article from Eataly on how to eat leftover Parmigiano Reggiano Rinds has some great tips, including:
- Adding rinds to soups (likely the most popular use or Parm Reg rinds)
- Flavor and thicken risotto
- Make a Parmigiano Reggiano broth
- Infuse it in Olive Oil (I had never heard of this one, but am definitely intrigued)
Show Me Your Cheese
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