"The Great Cheese of the Seven Centuries", Parmigiano-Reggiano has remained unchanged for more than 700 years, made with the same three elements of milk, rennet and heat. (Now begins the eighth century...) It is made daily in traditional cheese-making plants in 5 distinct provinces of the region according to strict standards. After one-year of aging, each wheel is examined by the consorzio. Only those wheels deemed of superior quality will be branded with the official stamp and can be called Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Praise for this "King of Cheeses" as it is called, is documented in the works of many respected scholars, writers and philosophers including Boccaccio, Montaigne, Savinio, Templeton and that famous lover Casanova! Bartolomeo Sacchi (1421-1482), who became the first librarian of the new Vatican library under Pope Sixtus IV and is known as the famous Il Platina, recommended recipes using Parmigiano-Reggiano in his important cookbook De honesta voluptate et valetudine. Il piacere onesto e la buona salute (c. 1474, On Right Pleasure and Good Health) Translations and critical editions continue to be printed of this highly respected work. In the 17th-century, dear Molière was quoted as saying, "Eh! no, my wife's broths are truly nitric acid to me; and you know all the ingredients that she has put in them. Rather, let me have a small piece of Parmesan cheese." Do you think his dyspepsia influenced his writings?
Whatever the preference, Parmigiano-Reggiano is a cooked, unpressed semi-hard cheese high in protein, 32%, and low in fat, 28%, made with partially skimmed cow's milk. (Note that popular Brie and Cheddar usually contain 40-45% fat.) One pound of Parmigiano-Reggiano is made from two gallons of milk. This concentration of milk, along with 1-3 years aging yields a semi-hard cheese low in moisture compared to many other cheeses, increasing its nutritional value with a concentration of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, essential amino acids, Vitamins A, B, E and non-essential amino acids. For many Italians, this cheese is a delicious alternative to meat, and many Bolognesi prefer a cheese platter for lunch featuring Parmigiano-Reggiano. At sunset, we wouldn't think of serving aperitivi without a few small pieces of this cheese to whet the appetite. But rather than extoll its virtues as mere everyday cooks, let the following suffice:
"It is above all rich in things useful to mortals. It has an excellent territory, extremely pleasant and fecund, fertile in grain, broad beans and all the other crops and similarly in noble fruits and wine of every type, sweet, white, red. Nor is it lacking in curative waters, salubrious to many effects; everywhere fields stretch around far and wide, rich in abundant pasturelands,of supreme opportunities for livestock: from them milk is collected to make the cheese of such a wonderful goodness that it exceeds belief, if you have never seen it; and Parmesan cheese earns the highest degree of praise for all of Italy." Sebastian Münster, 15th-century German humanist.
You'll see this beautiful land when we drive through the Emilian countryside, and you'll have a rare opportunity to view a double gold medal-winning casaro make his prized Parmigiano-Reggiano in copper cauldrons that contain over 1200 liters of milk. In our cucina, we use every part of Parmigiano-Reggiano, for it's fantastic flavor makes it easily adaptable to a range of dishes. Never thrown away, the rind is immersed in simmering ragu, stew and soup enrichening each. As a fine table cheese, small chunks make satisfying snacks and antipasti. Grated, this cheese not only tops pasta, but is the finishing touch for creamy risotto and a great flavoring for pasta fillings and stuffings of all kinds. Or simply shave some on top of a favored insalata or cotoletta. See and taste for yourself! We think Molière would approve.