Parmigiano Reggiano was one of the first products to be awarded a PDO, or Protected Denomination of Origin product, which basically means it can only be produced from milk obtained from, and then manufactured, in it’s place of origin, namely the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emelia, Modena, Bologna to the west of the Reno River and to Mantua to the east of the Po River.
The history of the cheese dates back over 800 years to 1200AD. So renowned in quality in fact, that during the Great Fire of London, Samuel Pepys mentioned it as one of the items to save! Today only around 430 Artisan dairies craft this amazing product for us to enjoy.
It’s a nutritious and easy cheese to digest, so can be enjoyed by young and old alike, whether it’s served simply on its own with a good quality balsamic vinegar or as in ingredient in a wide variety of dishes.
Standard maturing times are from 18 months, to 24 months and finally through to 36 months. Each matured ‘wheel’ of cheese has its own distinct flavour and characteristics. The 18 month is perfect served in chunks with an aperitif or a dry white wine. The 24 month is mild but full flavoured and has a crumbly, grainy texture; good with red wines or fruit salads, figs or prunes. The mature 36 month cheese is extra strong and is the most nutritious, whilst the texture is drier, more crumbly and grainy. Perfect with full bodies red wines, aged balsamic vinegar and honey.
Unlike cheaper alternatives that you can buy pre-grated in tubs (which can sometimes have a rather unpleasant odour when sprinkled over hot food) , Parmigiano Reggiano cheese has both an amazing aroma as well as taste and is best grated fresh from the block. We’ve always been a lover of good quality food in this house and I must admit I do find it difficult to economise on good quality ingredients; Parmigiano Reggiano cheese being one of those that I buy most weeks.
I was recently lucky enough to receive two complimentary recipe books with some truly delicious sounding recipes (sweet and savoury) featuring Parmigiano Reggiano. The recipe that has so far stood out and was thoroughly enjoyed by all the family was for Chicken Breasts with Pesto and Parmigiano Reggiano. We used a sundried tomato pesto sauce as opposed to a green pesto and served it with olive oil drizzled roasted vine tomatoes, peppers, courgettes & shallots which we sprinkled with rosemary and served up with some cous cous. I can’t wait to try some more of the recipes now.