Itinerary: Parma, Reggio Emilia, Bologna, Modena
Parmigiano Reggiano DOP the world-wide famous Italian cheese
Parmigiano Reggiano DOP (usually referred to as Parmesan cheese) is undoubtedly the most famous and beloved Italian cheese. It is commonly used in Italy so, you will find it on the table of every family and every restaurant as it is one of the basic ingredients of the Italian cuisine! This is thanks to its excellent taste, high quality, and its good nutritional values.
Where it is produced
The name of Parmigiano Reggiano is strictly linked to its places of origin: the cities of Parma and Reggio Emilia. The qualities of this unique cheese are enhanced by the fertile areas of production in the heart of Emilia Romagna region, which is worldwide famous for the goodness and excellence of its typical food.
Apart from the provinces of Parma and Reggio Emilia, the production of milk and the process of turning it into cheese are also authorized in the provinces of Modena, Bologna (to the west of river Reno) and Mantua (to the east of river Po).
History & how it is made
According to the history, Parmesan Cheese was well known even in the Middle Ages, and it is likely to be invented in the twelfth century. The first cheese wheels were produced in small dairy farms within the Benedictine and Cistercian Monasteries surrounded by the green meadows around Parma and Reggio Emilia.
For centuries, Parmigiano Reggiano has been produced following the same traditional recipe, and today there are around 350 small dairy farms that produce this cheese without using additives and according to some strict rules, in order to guarantee its high quality. This quality is preserved thanks to the official Consortium, established in 1934, and the DOP appellation (denomination of protected origin).
The process of the cheese making
The milk is left to rest in containers for one night. The morning after, it is going to be poured in copper boilers together with fresh milk, rennet, and whey. The product is then shaped in wheels and immersed in a solution of salt and water for one month. During the aging period, the crust is formed. The aging must take at least 12 months, although some cheese wheels can age up to 90 months to get a more intense flavor. Something important: each wheel is stamped with a serial number, which makes them unique!
Qualities & how it looks like
Parmigiano Reggiano is a hard, granular, long-aging cheese. It contains only 30% of water, the rest is made of nutrients. Although it is quite fat, it is also rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals, so that it is good for your health! Parmigiano Reggiano has a straw-yellow inside, a darker crust, and a granular texture. According to the different periods of aging, Parmesan Cheese can have fresh, delicate or more intense aromas and flavors.
The best way to taste it
Parmigiano Reggiano is an extremely versatile cheese, which is used in a limitless array of recipes and combinations. You can grate it on pasta, pizza, meat, salads, soups, savory tarts, stuffed pasta, and it can be tasted in many different dishes and in many different ways such as a cut in scales, bites or grated. Just give room to your fantasy! Apart from fish-based dishes, parmesan cheese is used everywhere and almost every time.
Don't forget it can be tasted even by itself: just cut some small bites or scales and taste them with a good glass of wine, honey, jam or fresh fruit.
Parmigiano Reggiano does represent one of the Italian-cuisine milestones!
Some pictures of Parmesan Cheese: