For true cheese connoisseurs, no other hard cheeses quite measures up to the subtly nuanced flavour of Parmigiano Reggiano – or Parmesan as it is more commonly known.
To be an authentic Parmigiano, cheese must be made from the milk of cows that have grazed only on fresh grass and hay. The name itself is a reflection of the regions where it has been made since at least the middle ages. Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna and Mantua. By adopting the name Parmesan, imitators get around the thorny European Union PDO legal issues and hope cheese lovers won’t notice the bitter taste often present in their inferior quality cheese.
Parmigiano is the stuff of legends mentioned in Boccaccio’s bawdy Decameron, by Casanova and even Samuel Pepys writing from London. All too often it is relegated to the final indulgent flourish on top a pasta dish, risotto or soups, but it makes an excellent table cheese.
Because the cheese already has low moisture content, it’s important to first wrap it in waxy paper and then seal it in either plastic wrap or a plastic container so that it can still breathe. But even under the best conditions, anything you’ve had longer than a week or two should be used only for cooking.