Parmigiano-Reggiano is a classic Italian cheese known throughout the world for its signature flavor and texture. The cheese has ancient origins and was prized during the Roman Age by Columella, Varrone and Marziale, who wrote about the production and fame of a cheese from Parma with characteristic similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano.
In the mid-14th century, Giovanni Boccaccio mentions Parmigiano in his description of the Paese di Bengodi, or the mythical land of plenty. He suggests tossing the cheese with maccheroni and ravioli, guaranteeing the cheese’s fame for years centuries to come.
Parmigiano-Reggiano is made with pure cow’s milk. The milk comes from two separate milkings, one of which is partially skimmed. The cheese itself has a cylindrical shape with either tapered edges or it is almost perfectly straight.
A wheel of Parmigiano is 14 to 18 inches wide, 7 to 9 inches tall, and weighs between 48 to 88 lbs. It has a hard rind that can be either dark and oily or naturally golden. The inside of the cheese is soft, velvety, and slightly grainy. It is hay-colored, with a delicate, savory but not spicy flavor.
The Consortium of Parmigiano-Reggiano
The Consortium of Parmigiano-Reggiano, was founded in 1934, and is comprised of Parmigiano cheese producers from the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Mantova and Bologna.
The quality of their cheese is based on a happy balance of many factors, including the quality of the pastures and of the milk, the artisanal production methods that have remained unchanged for seven centuries, the natural aging process, the complete absence of preservatives, additives or coloring agents, and the strict control of the Consortium.
Parmigiano is in fact made without any additives. It is produced with the milk from two milkings, one of which is partially skimmed. The milk itself comes from cows raised on selected pastures. More and more, producers are returning to milk from the indigenous Reggina cows rather than Holsteins for reasons of quality. At the end of aging, a process that can take up to three years, the wheels have developed a very compact, grainy texture and characteristically strong, but not spicy, flavor. Parmigiano falls into a category of hard Italian cheeses generally referred to as grana, based on their granular texture.
The Consortium defends and protects the production of Parmigiano-Reggiano. They also oversee how it is used and where it is being produced. They work to educate consumers about where and how Parmigiano is traditionally made. The Consortium is a non-profit organization and, according to a decree made on June 17, 1957, it is responsible for building the brand and monitoring the standards of production.
The Consortium is made up of a group of 650 small, artisanal cheese producers located is a specific zone of production and are subject by law to preserve the centuries old production methods and quality of the product. Thanks to the Consortium, Parmigiano-Reggiano remains a genuine, traditional product. The production regulations are strictly enforced and ensure the highest quality possible.
Thanks to the work of the producers and the Consortium, Parmigiano-Reggiano is available on the market. This priceless cheese is the perfect accompaniment to a plate of pasta. It is also known to be a healthy ingredient used in many traditional Italian dishes, from meats to vegetables, to sformati and sauces. Parmigiano-Reggiano has been recognized by the European Union as a DOP (Protected Denomination of Origin) product.