Parmesan or Parmigiano-Reggiano is an Italian extra-hard cheese made of cow’s milk.
It is named after the producing areas Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena and Bologna (all in Emilia-Romagna), and Mantova (in Lombardia), Italy.
According to legend, Parmigiano-Reggiano was created in the course of the Middle Ages in Bibbiano, in the province of Reggio Emilia.
Its production soon spread to the Parma and Modena areas. Historical documents show that in the 13th and 14th centuries, Parmigiano was already very similar to that produced today, which suggests its origins can be traced to far earlier.
Some evidence suggests that the name was used for Parmesan cheese in Italy and France in the 17th-19th century.
Over the centuries, Parmigiano-Reggiano has not changed its production method: today as in the Middle Ages, the product is made in a natural way without additives. At the beginning of 1900, some important innovations that are still relevant today were introduced, such as the use of fermented whey and steam heating.
Under Italian law, only cheese produced in these provinces may be labeled “Parmigiano-Reggiano,” and European law classifies the name, as well as the translation “Parmesan,” as a protected designation of origin.
Authentic Italian parmesan has ‘Parmigiano-Reggiano’ stamped on the rind.
The average Parmigiano-Reggiano wheel is about 18–24 cm (7–9 in) high, 40–45 cm (16–18 in) in diameter, and weighs 38 kg (84 lb).
Most Parmigiano-Reggiano wheels are aged for 18 to 36 months — 24 months, on average. Most U.S. versions typically age a minimum of 10 months.
Parmesan has a hard pale-golden rind and a straw-colored interior with a rich, sharp flavor.
It is commonly grated over pasta dishes, stirred into soups and risottos, and eaten on its own. It is often shaved or grated over other dishes like salads.
A cheese labeled as Parmesan in the U.S. that is not genuine Parmigiano-Reggiano still can be a tasty cheese. Many artisanal cheesemakers are making high-quality cheeses that are inspired by Parmigiano-Reggiano.
The original Parmesan cheese is one of the most expensive cheeses in the world.
Parmesan is the most imitated cheese in the world.
It has been called the “King of Cheeses” and a “practically perfect food”.
Parmesan is one of the typical foods, along with truffles, mushrooms and miso, that evokes umami savouriness on your tastebuds.
During the Great Fire of London of 1666, Samuel Pepys buried his “Parmazan cheese, as well as his wine and some other things” to preserve them.
Parmigiano-Reggiano has been the target of organized crime in Italy, particularly the Mafia or Camorra, which ambush delivery trucks on the Autostrada A1 in northern Italy between Milan and Bologna, hijacking shipments.
The most parmesan cheese wheels cracked simultaneously at multiple venues is 1,209 and was achieved by Loblaw Companies Limited (Canada) throughout Canada on 22 March 2014.