All About Real Italian Parmesan Reggiano (What Makes It Italian)

Updated: Feb 24

There's not much better than the sharp, flavorful, nutty, complex taste of authentic Italian Parmesan Reggiano. Whether you're sprinkling it on your salad, grating it onto a big bowl of pasta, or enjoying it on a pizza, it's a remarkable and beautiful cheese. But when you're eating parmesan, you've got to go authentic.

You may not have known it, but your tastebuds probably do. There's a huge difference between real parmesan cheese from Italy and the kind manufactured in the US. The best Parmigiano Reggiano comes from only a handful of places across Italy—and bears the stamp to prove it.

If you'd like to learn more about this beautiful cheese and what makes it so great, you've come to the right place. Read on to find out more now.

The History of Italian Parmesan Reggiano

The story of Parmesan Reggiano begins in Italy many centuries ago. During the middle ages, Benedictine monks from the town of Bibbiano were looking for a way to preserve their milk for longer and accidentally produced cheese in the process. But what a happy accident this was!

Over time, they refined this technique and used it to make a cheese they could age for a long time. Thus, Parmigiano Reggiano was born. The popularity of this cheese quickly grew, and even to this day, it hasn't ever waned.

Today, imitations of authentic Parmigiano Reggiano are made in countries made all over the world—including here in the US. However, these cheesy imposters are distinctly different than real parmesan cheese from Italy for one simple reason: the Denominazione d'Origine Protetta.

The DOP certification guarantees that authentic parmesan is produced processed, and packaged in a specific geographical zone and according to tradition. These are five select provinces: Parma, Reggio-Emilia, Bologna, Modena, and Mantova.

How Is It Made?

So, we know where it's made, but what about how it's made? One of the hallmarks of real Italian parmesan is that it contains only a few simple ingredients. There are unpasteurized cow's milk, sea salt, and rennet (a natural enzyme derived from animal sources).

In Italy, cheesemaking is an ancient art, and the production of parmesan is no exception. It begins by slowly heating fresh milk, which is separated into curd and whey with the addition of rennet. The cheesemaker then breaks up the heated curd.

Finally, they collect the curd using a cheesecloth and place it into round molds, which form the large wheels of cheese you may have seen. The wheel settles, brines, and is kept for up to 36 months to mature.

How to Keep It Fresh

If you've got an opened packet of parmesan, you'll want to be able to keep it fresh for as long as possible. To do this, you should wrap it in plastic wrap and keep it in the refrigerator. Cheese exposed to oxygen can start to turn white, or the rind can begin to thicken.

Not Only Good for Pasta or Pizza

There are so many things you can do with Italian Parmesan Reggiano. You can eat it by itself, with crackers or chutney, turn it into a delicious sauce, make parmesan chips—the list goes on and on.

If you'd like the chance to taste the most authentic parmesan for yourself, come on down to Sicilia Mia today. Click here to make a reservation—we can't wait to see you soon.

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