Revered by food enthusiasts worldwide, Parmigiano Reggiano is considered the king of Italian cheeses for its remarkable versatility, rich flavor, and undeniable health benefits. Every slice of this superlative product epitomizes centuries of Italian cheesemaking tradition, making it an irresistible addition to a variety of dishes.
First, let’s delve into the significance of this extraordinary cheese, highlighting its pivotal role in the culinary world, and then offer some insight into how to properly select and store it.
Significance of Parmigiano Reggiano:
Parmigiano Reggiano, also known as Parmesan cheese, boasts a culinary use as old as Roman times and is designated as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product. This signifies that the geographical origin plays an essential role in the cheese’s quality. Only cheese produced in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, and parts of Mantua, Modena, and Bologna, according to strict standards, can be officially labeled as Parmigiano Reggiano.
This cheese imparts a unique combination of fruity, nutty, and salty flavors, with the taste varying depending on its aging period. Beyond that, Parmigiano Reggiano is an excellent source of protein, vitamins, and minerals, and is often recommended for children, athletes, and the elderly due to its high nutrient content and easy digestibility.
Applications of Parmigiano Reggiano:
Parmigiano Reggiano has a wide range of culinary applications, whether it’s to enhance the depth of a dish or to serve as a standalone table cheese. Its granular texture and rich aroma make it ideal for grating over pasta, salads, and risottos. Traditionally, real Italian pasta sauces like Bolognese and Carbonara aren’t complete without a generous sprinkling of Parmesan on top.
The added crunch and umami flavor can also amplify the taste of roasted vegetables, grilled meats or soups. Furthermore, cheese enthusiasts often appreciate Parmigiano Reggiano paired with full-bodied wines, dried fruits, or honey, highlighting the cheese’s strong character and complex flavor profile.
Selecting Parmigiano Reggiano:
When buying Parmigiano Reggiano, look for the characteristic pin-dot inscription on the rind that reads “Parmigiano Reggiano,” along with a number indicating the producing dairy, and the production month and year. Quality Parmigiano Reggiano has a fragrant and intense aroma with slight notes of fruit and nuts.
Be mindful of the cheese’s age statement. Generally, a 12-month aged cheese is more delicate and milky, while a 24-month is full-bodied with more defined flavors. For superior complexity, look for Parmigiano Reggiano aged 36 months or more.
Storing Parmigiano Reggiano:
To maintain the Parmigiano Reggiano’s quality and extend its shelf-life, you must store it properly. Cheese prefers a cool, humid environment. Therefore, the vegetable compartment of your refrigerator is an ideal place.
Keep the cheese wrapped in wax paper or aluminum foil. Avoid using plastic wrap as it can condense moisture and promote mold. If the cheese becomes dry, wrap it in a damp cloth and then in paper before returning it to the refrigerator.
If stored correctly, a whole piece of Parmigiano Reggiano can last up to several months. Once you cut into the cheese, aim to consume it within a couple of weeks to enjoy it at its best.
Parmigiano Reggiano demands a discerning palate, not just to appreciate its taste, but also to ensure you’re purchasing authentic, high-quality cheese. By understanding how to select and store your Parmesan properly, you will ensure that every morsel carries forward the rich, celebrated legacy of Italian cheese craftsmanship. So, why not add a wedge to your shopping list and begin your exploration of this gastronomic gem?