Grana Padano is an Italian cheese with a hard texture and slow maturation: it is one of the best known Italian matured cheeses, especially for the habit of using it grated over pasta.
The name, the production areas and the whole manufacturing process are subject to the control of the Protection Consortium which was established in Lodi on 18 June 1954. Grana Padano itself was recognized as a PDO food product in 1996.
Grana Padano roots dating back to few centuries ago when, due to the lack of refrigerants and preservatives, it was necessary to follow the natural rhythms and put the experience to good use. Preserving a food was a challenge and required great expertise: fresh cheeses lasted little more than fresh milk.
The boiling, then, was the first step to promote conservation by eliminating most of the micro-organisms responsible for unwanted molds. This process, followed by the addition of salt and rennet, made it possible to obtain a hard cheese suitable for seasoning, that means preserved, even for a long time. Its scent and taste soon made it a food appreciated even on the tables of the nobles: at the court of the Gonzaga in Mantua in 1500 there was no lack of the Grana Padano.
Today, the whole processing method follows the steps described in the specification of the Consortium.
The raw milk milked in the production area, identified with all of northern Italy, is partially skimmed by natural outcrop. It is then collected in large copper boilers, added with the whey left over from the previous day's processing and finally heated before the addition of rennet. The curd that is formed is broken and processed through the use of an ancient tool: the “spino”. The granules thus produced are deposited on the bottom of the copper bell where they aggregate. A few hours later, the cheese is extracted and collected in a "fascera", a disc structure that will give to Grana Padano the typical wheel shape. After two days the forms are immersed in a salt solution and then transferred to a warm chamber for the drying process before being collected in the maturing warehouse where they will remain for a minimum of 9 months.
The duration of the maturing defines the organoleptic characteristics of this cheese:
from 9 to 16 months it has a delicate taste and medium consistency
over 16 months Grana Padano has a stronger taste and a more pronounced straw color
over 20 months the cheese acquires a more intense taste and color as well as the typical flaked structure
Grana Padano is a mature hard cheese and as such should be consumed in portions that do not exceed 50 g: a portion of cheese, fresh or seasoned, can be the main source of protein in a meal even twice a week.
In nutritional terms, Grana Padano ensures a good supply of proteins with a high biological value and a good quantity of mineral salts. Moreover it is naturally lactose-free: the typical milk sugar naturally degrades during the first seasoning phase.
The intake of fat is not negligible, nor that of salt: 50 g provide 350 mg of sodium, almost 20% of the maximum daily intake for this mineral. However, in a healthy and balanced diet based on the Mediterranean diet model, Grana Padano is a pleasure that should not be missed.
How to taste it
Grana Padano is good in flakes or grated on pasta. In the first case it is an excellent aperitif but also a perfect complement to a portion of fresh seasonal vegetables seasoned with a little balsamic vinegar: in this case it becomes a creative solution for the second course of the meal.
Grana Padano. Una storia di qualità-A story of quality Silvia Borghesi. Mondadori Electa, 2016 - 154 pagine
Round The World - Il giro del mondo con il Grana Padano: Grana Padano e il sapore del viaggio. Consorzio Tutela Grana Padano
Disciplinare GRANA PADANO D.O.P. https://www.politicheagricole.it/flex/files/d/0/9/D.eb95882067970c747963/Disciplinare_Grana_Padano.pdf (accesso del 8.08.2018)
Linee Guida per una Sana Alimentazione Italiana. Istituto Nazionale di Ricerca per gli Alimenti e la Nutrizione