Authentic Parmiggiano Reggiano

I love cheese.  Anything from cheddar to blue cheese, gouda to edam, ricotta to havarti I just love the taste of cheese.  When I was a kid one we never got to try was authentic Parmesan cheese.  The only kind we knew was the Kraft brand grated Parmesan or the generic version of the blended, grated cheese product.  We would use it on pasta, pizza, vegetables, etc.  My dad isn’t much of a cheese monger so he just called it the “stinky foot” cheese.  Oh but my brother and I loved it.

Now as an adult with a DH that enjoys fine foods and exotic flavors I’ve been able to try many more cheeses that before were foreign to my palate.  The first time I tried authentic Italian parmiggiano reggiano I was blown away.  The nutty, salty and uniquely sweet flavor of the cheese was nothing compared to the canned cheese I’d had as a kid.  When I found that the local Sam’s Club carried imported Italian parmiggiano reggiano I begged DH for a wedge of it.  He made me promise to use it and I assured him it would be no problem at all.  I even convinced him to buy me a fine hand held grater so I wouldn’t have to pulverize it in my teenie food processor attachment for my electric hand blender.  For some reason using a machine takes away the je nous se quios.  The $15 price tag on the grater was a bit steep in my book, but I’ve been able to use it for whole nutmeg, citrus zest and garlic (that’s a story for another post).

Needless to say, I’ve gone through several wedges of the cheese and haven’t gotten sick of it yet.  The texture is so interesting with the little sugar crystals that form in the cheese giving it a crunch when eaten in chunks.  It takes a bit of effort to grate because the cheese is so dry.

The Argitoni Parmiggiano Reggiano from Sam’s Club is imported from Italy by Imperia Foods in New Jersey.  It’s aged over 24 months and is certified by the Consorzio Parmiggiano Reggiano No. 08/82.  The price from Sam’s Club is just right too.  Depending on the season (and fuel prices) it ranges between $9 and $12 per pound.  Last time I bought some I paid $11.64/lb.

This product far surpasses the chunk domestic Parmesan cheeses that are available even at the specialty or gourmet stores.  There was one evening DH and I were at Fresh Market and I knew we wouldn’t make it to Sam’s so I picked up a chunk of Rosalia’s Trattoria Cheese Parmesan, aged over 10 months.  It’s made in the US and distributed by Davidson Hubeny Brands in Needham, MA.  We paid $10.99/lb and I think we over paid.  The imported Italian reggiano was $20/lb or more and we didn’t want to pay that much knowing the quality of cheese we had gotten for much less.  So in an effort to fill our need we went for the cheaper domestic and unfortunately were disappointed.

The domestic cheese was rubbery in texture.  It lacked the sweetness and sugar crystals of the Italian brand.  Also the earthy nuttiness you expect from “real” parmesan was absent.  Overall it smelled more like the Kraft brand grated parmesan only in chunk form.

In short if you like parmesan cheese and have a way to grate it as you use it go for an imported Parmiggiano Reggiano.  The domestic parmesan is alright if you can’t find another good one.  Absolutely the canned stuff is a last resort.  Check out your grocers cheese selection.  You may be surprized at what you find.

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