Parmigiano-Reggiano (/ˌpɑːrmɪˌdʒɑːnoʊ rɛˈdʒɑːnoʊ/;
Italian pronunciation: [ˌparmiˈdʒaːno redˈdʒaːno]) is an
Italian hard, granular cheese. The name "Parmesan" is often used
generically for various simulations of this cheese, although this is
prohibited in trading in the
European Economic Area
European Economic Area under European
Official certification logo of autorizzazione consorzio
It is named after the producing areas, which comprise the provinces of
Parma, Reggio Emilia,
Bologna (only the area to the west of the river
Modena (all in Emilia-Romagna), and Mantua (in Lombardy, but
only the area to the south of river Po), Italy. Under Italian law,
only cheese produced in these provinces may be labelled
"Parmigiano-Reggiano", and European law classifies the name, as well
as the translation "Parmesan", as a protected designation of origin.
Parmigiano is the Italian adjective for Parma and Reggiano is the
adjective for Reggio Emilia. Outside the EU, the name "Parmesan" can
legally be used for cheeses similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano, with only
the full Italian name unambiguously referring to Parmigiano-Reggiano
cheese. It has been called the "King of Cheeses".
Aroma and chemical components
6 Name use and generic parmesan
6.1 American generic parmesan cheese
6.1.2 Flavor and uses
7 Similar cheeses
7.1 Grana Padano
7.2 Gran Moravia
8 See also
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Parmigiano-Reggiano is made from unpasteurized cow's milk. The whole
milk of the morning milking is mixed with the naturally skimmed milk
(which is made by keeping milk in large shallow tanks to allow the
cream to separate) of the previous evening's milking, resulting in a
part skim mixture. This mixture is pumped into copper-lined vats
(copper heats and cools quickly).
Copper-lined vats for the production of Parmigiano Reggiano
Starter whey (containing a mixture of certain thermophilic lactic acid
bacteria) is added, and the temperature is raised to 33–35 °C
(91–95 °F). Calf rennet is added, and the mixture is left to
curdle for 10–12 minutes. The curd is then broken up mechanically
into small pieces (around the size of rice grains). The temperature is
then raised to 55 °C (131 °F) with careful control by the
cheese-maker. The curd is left to settle for 45–60 minutes. The
compacted curd is collected in a piece of muslin before being divided
in two and placed in molds. There is 1100 L (291 US gallons or 250
imperial gallons) of milk per vat, producing two cheeses each. The
curd making up each wheel at this point weighs around 45 kg
(100 lb). The remaining whey in the vat was traditionally used to
feed the pigs from which "
Prosciutto di Parma" (cured Parma ham) was
produced. The barns for these animals were usually just a few yards
away from the cheese production rooms.
Cracking open a wheel of
The cheese is put into a stainless steel, round form that is pulled
tight with a spring-powered buckle so the cheese retains its wheel
shape. After a day or two, the buckle is released and a plastic belt
imprinted numerous times with the
Parmigiano-Reggiano name, the
plant's number, and month and year of production is put around the
cheese and the metal form is buckled tight again. The imprints take
hold on the rind of the cheese in about a day and the wheel is then
put into a brine bath to absorb salt for 20–25 days. After brining,
the wheels are then transferred to the aging rooms in the plant for 12
months. Each cheese is placed on wooden shelves that can be 24 cheeses
high by 90 cheeses long or 2160 total wheels per aisle. Each cheese
and the shelf underneath it is then cleaned manually or robotically
every seven days. The cheese is also turned at this time.
Parmigiano-Reggiano factory maturation room
Product process of Parmesan Cheese
At 12 months, the Consorzio
Parmigiano-Reggiano inspects every wheel.
The cheese is tested by a master grader who taps each wheel to
identify undesirable cracks and voids within the wheel. Wheels that
pass the test are then heat branded on the rind with the Consorzio's
logo. Those that do not pass the test used to have their rinds marked
with lines or crosses all the way around to inform consumers that they
are not getting top-quality Parmigiano-Reggiano; more recent practices
simply have these lesser rinds stripped of all markings.
Traditionally, cows have to be fed only on grass or hay, producing
grass fed milk. Only natural whey culture is allowed as a starter,
together with calf rennet.
The only additive allowed is salt, which the cheese absorbs while
being submerged for 20 days in brine tanks saturated to near total
salinity with Mediterranean sea salt. The product is aged an average
of two years. The cheese is produced daily, and it can show a natural
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese has a sharp, complex
fruity/nutty taste with a strong savory flavor and a slightly gritty
texture. Inferior versions can impart a bitter taste.
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).
All producers of Parmesan cheese belong to the Consorzio del Formaggio
Cheese Consortium), which was
founded in 1928. Besides setting and enforcing the standards for
the PDO, the Consorzio also sponsors marketing activities.
As of 2017[update], about 3.6m wheels (approx. 137,000 metric tons) of
parmesan are produced every year; they use about 18% of all the milk
produced in Italy.
Most workers in the Italian dairy industry (bergamini) belong to the
Italian General Confederation of Labour. As older dairy workers
retire, younger Italians have tended to work in factories or offices.
Immigrants have filled that role, with 60% of the workers in the
Parmesan industry now immigrants from India, almost all Sikhs.
Parmigiano-Reggiano 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.
Half a wheel of
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese carved with a Parmesan
Slivers and chunks of the hardest parts of the crust are sometimes
simmered in soup. They can also be roasted and eaten as a snack.
Parmigiano-Reggiano festival in Modena; each wheel (block of cheese)
Parmigiano-Reggiano being taste-tested at a festival in Modena, with
balsamic vinegar drizzled on top
According to legend,
Parmigiano-Reggiano was created in the course of
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.
It was praised as early as 1348 in the writings of Boccaccio; in the
Decameron, he invents a 'mountain, all of grated Parmesan cheese', on
which 'dwell folk that do nought else but make macaroni and ravioli,
and boil them in capon's broth, and then throw them down to be
scrambled for; and hard by flows a rivulet of Vernaccia, the best that
ever was drunk, and never a drop of water therein.'
Great Fire of London
Great Fire of London of 1666,
Samuel Pepys buried his
"Parmazan cheese, as well as his wine and some other things" to
In the memoirs of Giacomo Casanova, he remarked that the name
"Parmesan" was a misnomer common throughout an "ungrateful" Europe in
his time (mid-18th century), as the cheese was produced in the town of
Lodi, Lombardy, not Parma. Though Casanova knew his table and claimed
in his memoir to have been compiling a (never completed) dictionary of
cheeses, his comment has been taken to refer mistakenly to a grana
cheese similar to "Parmigiano", Grana Padano, which is produced in the
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
Milan and Bologna, hijacking
shipments. The cheese is ultimately sold in southern Italy.
Between November 2013 and January 2015, an organized crime gang stole
2039 wheels of
Parmigiano-Reggiano from warehouses in northern and
Aroma and chemical components
Cheese, Parmesan, Hard
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
392 kcal (1,640 kJ)
Vitamin A equiv.
μg = micrograms • mg = milligrams
IU = International units
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Parmigiano has many aroma-active compounds, including various
aldehydes and butyrates.
Butyric acid and isovaleric acid together
are sometimes used to imitate the dominant aromas.
Parmigiano is also particularly high in glutamate, containing as much
as 1.2 g of glutamate per 100 g of cheese. The high
concentration of glutamate explains the strong umami taste of
Parmigiano cheese typically contains cheese crystals, semi-solid to
gritty crystalline spots that at least partially consist of the amino
Name use and generic parmesan
A wheel of
Parmigiano-Reggiano manufactured in January 2014 with DOP
marking and "Parmigiano-Reggiano" written vertically around the
complete edge of the wheel. An official certification will be stamped
into the central oval when it is graded.
Voice of America
Voice of America report showing production of the cheese and
imitations using the name without authorization.
The name is legally protected and, in Italy, exclusive control is
exercised over the cheese's production and sale by the
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese Consorzio, which was created by a
governmental decree. Each wheel must meet strict criteria early in the
aging process, when the cheese is still soft and creamy, to merit the
official seal and be placed in storage for aging. Because it is widely
Parmigiano-Reggiano has become an increasingly regulated
product, and in 1955 it became what is known as a certified name
(which is not the same as a brand name). In 2008, an EU court
determined that the name "Parmesan" in Europe only refers to
Parmigiano-Reggiano and cannot be used for imitation
Parmesan. Thus, in the European Union,
"Parmigiano-Reggiano" is a protected designation of origin (PDO –
DOP in Italian); legally, the name refers exclusively to the
Parmigiano-Reggiano PDO cheese manufactured in a limited area in
Special seals identify the product as authentic, with
the identification number of the dairy, the production month and year,
a code identifying the individual wheel and stamps regarding the
length of aging.
American generic parmesan cheese
Generic parmesan cheese is a family of hard grating cheeses made from
cow's milk and inspired by the original Italian cheese. They are
generally pale yellow in color, and usually used grated on dishes like
spaghetti, Caesar salad, and pizza. American generic parmesan is
frequently sold already grated.
Within the European Union, the term Parmesan may only be used, by law,
to refer to
Parmigiano-Reggiano itself, which must be made in a
restricted geographic area, using stringently defined methods. In many
areas outside Europe, the name "Parmesan" has become genericized, and
may denote any of a number of hard Italian-style grating
cheeses, often commercialized under names intended to evoke
the original: Parmesan, Parmigiana, Parmesana, Parmabon, Real Parma,
Parmezan, Parmezano, Reggianito. After the European ruling that
"parmesan" could not be used as a generic name, Kraft renamed its
grated cheese "Pamesello" in Europe.
Generic parmesans may be legally defined in various jurisdictions.
In the United States, the Code of Federal Regulations includes a
Standard of Identity for "Parmesan and reggiano cheese". This
defines both aspects of the production process and of the final
result. In particular, parmesan must be made of cow's milk, cured for
10 months or more, contain no more than 32% water, and have no less
than 32% milkfat in its solids. Most grated parmesans in the US
have cellulose added as an anti-caking agent, with up to 4% considered
acceptable under Federal law. Several manufacturers have been
investigated for allegedly going beyond the 4% limit.
In one case, FDA findings found "no parmesan cheese was used to
manufacture" a Pennsylvania manufacturer's grated cheese labeled
"Parmesan", apparently made from a mixture of other cheeses and
cellulose. The manufacturer declared bankruptcy in 2014 and their
president was expected to plead guilty to criminal charges, facing up
to $100,000 in fines and a year in jail.
Flavor and uses
Parmesan cheeses are rich in umami flavors. They are generally
used as a condiment for prepared foods, rather than being eaten by
itself on a cheese plate.
Kraft Foods is a major North American producer of generic parmesan and
has been selling it since 1945. As parmesan is a common
seasoning for pizzas and pastas; many major pizza and pasta chains
A risotto dish prepared with a soy-based Parmesan alternative
Soy-based alternatives to Parmesan cheese exist.
Outside Europe, commercially produced cheeses in the style of
Parmigiano-Reggiano may be legally sold under the generic name
Parmesan cheese. When sold in Europe, such cheeses are obliged to be
sold under other names, such as Kraft's "pamesello italiano".
Main article: Grana Padano
Grana Padano is an Italian cheese similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano.
It is produced mainly in Lombardy; "Padano" refers to the Po Valley
Cows can also be fed silage, not grass and hay only.
The milk contains slightly less fat.
Milk of several days can be used.
No organic certifications.
No controlled proceedings over cow breeds.
No cow feed control.
Minimum aging of 9 months.
Gran Moravia, is a cheese from the
Czech Republic similar to Grana
Padano and Parmigiano.
Main article: Reggianito
Reggianito is an Argentine cheese similar to Parmigiano.
List of cheeses
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^ See Pepys's diary entry for 4 September, 1666
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^ "I Know What I Like: Understanding Odor Preferences". The Fragrance
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disagreed. It commented that 'in the present case it is far from clear
that the designation parmesan has become ..."
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2004 -"... name "Parmesan" may not become generic. See on
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contains within it the name of an agricultural product or foodstuff
that is considered generic, the use of that generic name on ...
^ The Great Food Robbery: How Corporations Control Food 2012 "In 2008,
however, the EU ruled that the same applied to all cheese produced
under the name “Parmesan”, a generic term widely used for cheeses
produced around the world. The EU issued a similar ruling for Feta,
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Cheese You Sprinkle on Your Penne
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