In recent years, diners have really started to pay attention to the provenance and production journey of the ingredients on their plates, and this has led to a noticeable shift in the industry. There is one brand however, who has long been ahead of the curve, having always privileged the uniqueness and heritage of its products above everything else. Read on to discover the world of Parmigiano Reggiano.
All about cheese
Parmigiano Reggiano, known as the “king of cheeses”, is one of the world’s oldest and completely natural cheeses. It is essentially still produced today as it was over nine centuries ago, using the same ingredients (milk, salt and rennet), with the same craftmanship and production techniques. Only raw milk produced in the area of origin following strict rules is used to produce Parmigiano Reggiano. It is a high-quality milk, characterised by an intense bacterial activity of the local microbial flora, which is transformed into cheese without any additives or preservatives.
Good cheese comes to those who wait
A fundamental piece to Parmigiano Reggiano’s arresting aromas and texture is its long ageing period, which helps develop its unique characteristics. Such complexity is achieved in a totally natural way, without any additives, making Parmigiano Reggiano 100% natural, easy to digest and high in calcium. The minimum maturation time is at least 12 months, but only when it reaches approximately 24 months of age is it at its best. Ageing can continue up to 36 months or more, during which time the cheese develops its delicious flavour, texture and digestibility.
At the end of the minimum period of ageing, an expert from the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium examines each and every cheese wheel. If a wheel passes inspection and meets the requirements of the P.D.O. (Protected Designation of Origin), it is fire-branded with an oval mark that reads “Parmigiano Reggiano Consorzio Tutela”. This stamp of approval secures Parmigiano Reggiano as a brand that you can trust and rely on.
One of a kind
Parmigiano Reggiano is truly “the only Parmesan” as it is made in a restricted geographic area using stringently defined methods and according to P.D.O. regulation. P.D.O. products are defined and protected by European Union law in order to defend the reputation of regional foods. Parmigiano Reggiano is greatly passionate about this mark of authenticity, as it is an important part of Italy’s food heritage.
Recipes to make using Parmigiano Reggiano:
Parmigiano Reggiano and spinach filo parcels
Prep time: 30 minutes, plus cooling
Cooking time: 10-15 minutes
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
200g pack of spinach leaves
A handful of basil leaves
3 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
100g Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
A little freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (270g) pack of filo pastry sheets
125g butter, melted
Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion and fry until soft, add the garlic for 30 seconds more. Add the spinach leaves, then cover the pan and cook for a few minutes until the leaves are wilted. Stir in the herbs.
Tip the mixture into a large sieve and press out as much liquid as you can. Then return the mixture to the pan and stir in 75g Parmigiano Reggiano, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Leave to cool.
Preheat the oven to 190° C/Fan 170° C/ Gas Mark 5. Unfold the filo pastry. Lay a sheet on the work surface and brush with butter; sprinkle with Parmigiano Reggiano and top with a second sheet of filo. Brush with butter.
Use a pizza cutter to cut the pastry into strips about 5 ½ cm wide. Place a heaped teaspoon of spinach mixture at one end of the pastry, then fold it over to make a triangle. Keep folding to the end of the strip to make a neat parcel. Repeat this method until the spinach mixture is used.
Brush the filo with any remaining butter, sprinkle with the remaining Parmigiano Reggiano and bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating the trays half way through cooking time, until all are golden brown and crisp. Cool for 10 minutes or so, before serving warm.
Cooking tip: To freeze, place the unbaked parcels on a baking tray and freeze for up to one month, thaw before baking.
Smoked haddock fish cakes with a Parmigiano Reggiano crust
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
600g Maris Piper potatoes, peeled
500g naturally smoked haddock, skinned
150g Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
1 tbsp creamed horseradish
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
100g panko-dried breadcrumbs
2 medium eggs, beaten
2 tbsp plain flour
Vegetable oil for frying
Cut the potatoes into large, even chunks and cook in a large pan of boiling salted water for 10-15 minutes or until tender. Drain then mash and cool slightly.
Put the haddock in a frying pan, skin side up, cover with water and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and gently simmer for five minutes until the fish flakes easily. Drain the fish, peel away the skin.
Flake the fish and add to the mash with 50g of the Parmigiano Reggiano, horseradish and parsley, then gently mix together. Season to taste. Divide into four, then shape each into a neat round.
In a shallow bowl, mix the remaining Parmigiano Reggiano with the breadcrumbs. Pour the egg into another shallow bowl; and sprinkle the flour onto a plate. Coat the cakes in flour, then dip in egg and finally the breadcrumb mixture until well coated. Repeat to make four large cakes.
Heat 2cm vegetable oil in a deep-frying pan and cook the cakes over a medium low heat for eight minutes, turning once until golden on each side. Drain on kitchen paper and repeat with the remainder keeping them warm in the oven. Serve hot with a watercress salad
Cooking tip: Smoked cod or lightly smoked salmon work well too. Cook the fish skin side up and it’s easy to pull the skin off the cooked fish. Once made they can be wrapped and kept in the fridge for one day.
A guide to matching your Parmigiano Reggiano:
18 month-old Parmigiano Reggiano – match this cheese with a dry white wine or pair with fresh fruit, such as apples and pears.
24 month-old Parmigiano Reggiano – this cheese matches perfectly with traditional Italian pasta dishes, both grated and in slivers.
30 month-old Parmigiano Reggiano – grate this cheese onto fresh pasta or use with cream-based, ragu or meat-based sauces as it lets out the intense aromas and flavours.