Parmigiano Reggiano is probably the first Made in Italy food that you can think of. It is the cheese par excellence, for its peculiar scent and consistency.
It is great in flakes during the aperitif or grated on a pasta plate seasoned with tomato sauce or ragù, an italian meat sauce.
It is loved as much as it is copied abroad: Parmigiano Reggiano is one of the products that suffers most attempts at imitation. The Italian one is without equal in taste test and in product label.
The real Parmigiano Reggiano contains only milk, salt and rennet and no additives. Taste and aroma depend on the production method and seasoning: processes that are conducted as in the past and that make it the true King of Cheeses.
History and origins
Parmigiano Reggiano is produced in Parma and Reggio, in Emilia Romagna. This Italian region stands out against the Italian mountainous backdrop for its flat land rich in watercourses.
"The landscape of the region is defined by the valley of the Po river and the mountain ridge of the Apennines. On the right and left of the river lies the Po Valley with its characteristic rows of sparse poplars and plowed fields, among which are scattered old square farmhouses. [...] Within each square there is the agricultural court, all around cultivated land with maize and juicy grass, and meadows where cattle graze. "
It is not surprising, therefore, that this type of territory is the homeland of the most renowned hard cheese.
Historical evidence shows that already in 1200-1300 Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese was the typical cheese of this italian Region. One of the most appreciated characteristics of this cheese, today like in the past, is the preparation with specific gestures and genuine ingredients: milk from the area of origin, natural rennet and salt. The production is concentrated in about 350 small artisan dairies to which 3500 breeders deliver the milk every day. Milk production and the whole process of transformation are carried out in the provinces of:
Bologna, to the left of the Reno river.
Mantua, to the right of the Po river.
For over 70 years, the Parmigiano Reggiano has been protecting the production and its own name.
Parmigiano Reggiano is a Protected Designation of Origin product, so its production process is regulated by a strict registered regulation, which also includes compliance with a regulation for the feeding of livestock. Cows have to eat only local fodder with cereals, soybeans, flax or sunflower, broad bean and protein pea.
Every day, the previous night milked milk is collected and maintained in large tubs to bring out the fat part, which is collected and used for butter production.
The remaining milk is added to the first morning milked milk and it is poured into special copper boilers and, finally, it is joined to rennet and fermented whey, rich in natural lactic ferments.
After about 10 minutes the curd is reduced to granules with an old tool called “spino” and then cooked at a temperature of 55 °C until the granules fall to the bottom in a single mass. This is, finally, cutted into two parts and placed in a mould. Each cheese wheel is marked with a unique and progressive number. After a few days wheels are immersed in water and salt saturated solution.
At the end of the salting process, Parmigiano Reggiano is left to mature on large wooden tables for 12 months at least :
"[...] the external part of the cheese dries forming a natural crust, without treatments, therefore perfectly edible."
Before being put on the market all forms are examined and marked.
Parmigiano Reggiano is an hard cheese. The low amount of water, only 30% of the weight, makes it an excellent source of protein and minerals.
A standard portion weighing 50 g provides 16 g of protein, as much as is necessary for an adult individual in a single meal. These are proteins with a high biological value, rich in essential amino acids. The good amount of enzymes facilitates digestion.
The intake of fat is low: just under 10 g in a portion of 50 g of this cheese. Cholesterol content is also limited: a portion contains only 14% of the maximum recommended daily amount.
"Parmigiano Reggiano is naturally lactose-free.
The absence of lactose is a natural consequence of the typical process of obtaining Parmigiano Reggiano.It contains galactose in quantities below 0.01g / 100g."
How to taste it
As well as it is! The King of cheeses is first and foremost a food with a high nutritional value and taste. You can taste first with eyes to appreciate color and grain size, with hands to feel the consistency when breaking the flake, then with the nose and finally in the mouth.
All pasta dishes deserve to be enriched with a spoon of grated Parmigiano Reggiano:
the taste and the scent of the classic Italian pasta dish are also famous for this!
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- Disciplinare di Produzione vigente. Gazzetta Ufficiale Serie Generale n.77 del 3 aprile 2018
- "Aggiornamenti conseguenti all'evoluzione normativa connessa con l'entrata in vigore del regolamento (UE) 609/2013" Circolare Ministero della Salute 24078/2016
- LARN Livelli di Assunzione di Riferimento di Nutrienti ed energia per la popolazione italiana. SINU, Società Italiana di Nutrizione Umana.