Parmigiano Reggiano: What's in a Name? | culture: the word on cheese
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Parmigiano Reggiano: What’s in a Name?

Wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese

This blog post by Amy Sherman of Cooking with Amy, is part of a series promoting delicious Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and Parmigiano Reggiano Night, a virtual global dinner party happening on October 25. For more information, please visit

Forgive me cheeses, for I have sinned. I am not a Catholic, but I would like to confess and be absolved. My sin? I have sometimes listed parmesan cheese as an ingredient in recipes instead of Parmigiano Reggiano. That was wrong because “parmesan” is not the same as Parmigiano Reggiano. I know it’s not. Just as an experiment, buy “parmesan cheese” one time and try it in a recipe and you’ll see what I mean. I once bought some that indicated imported and was wrapped in the colors of the Italian flag. Only after being sorely disappointed did I notice it was imported alright, from Argentina. The cheese called parmesan doesn’t have the same intense umami flavor and it doesn’t have the right texture, especially those lovely crunchy crystals that come with age. What does it have instead? Probably a cheaper price tag and an Argentinian passport stamp.

Of course the flavor and texture of Parmigiano Reggiano varies with age. Not that it means older is always better. In cheese, as in life, there are advantages at every age. While you might not bring your grandma to a rave, you also wouldn’t want to take a toddler to the symphony. Among other things, in order to be Parmigiano Reggiano the cheese must be aged for at least a year. The broad categories of ages in Parmigiano Reggiano are +18 months, +24 months, and +30 months. Think toddler, adult, and senior.

So let’s take them out for a spin! Generally speaking, the adult Parmigiano Reggiano aged 24 months is likely to be your go-to cheese. It’s the favorite among Italians. It’s good for eating of course, but also for adding to dishes and for grating.

Less intense but still terrific is the younger toddler, at anywhere from 16 -18 months. It’s particularly good for shaving into those long strips that might adorn a Caesar Salad.

The aged to perfection seniors, at 36 months or more are true umami bombs. When you want rich flavor and creamy texture in pasta sauce, risotto or in fillings for pasta, or just enjoy nibbling on a hunk with crunch, it’s the best choice.

The good news is that any of these Parmigiano Reggiano cheeses are fine on a cheese plate. While the baby is a bit sweeter in flavor and the old lady a bit spicy, both are perfectly charming.

If you love Parmigiano (and really, who doesn’t?), be sure to celebrate Parmigiano Reggiano Night on October 25 using the free Parmigiano Reggiano App. This app will allow you to be part of a global dinner party celebrating the king of cheese. Don’t miss out on the fun, sign up for the app right now!

Amy Sherman

Amy Sherman is a San Francisco–based cookbook author, food writer, and recipe developer. She launched her blog, Cooking with Amy, in June of 2003, and not long after it was chosen one of the top five food blogs by Forbes and singled out by The Guardian as a top food blog. Over 4 million visits later, Amy continues to offer original recipes, reviews, commentary, news, and culinary travel information.

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