I love Italian cheeses, everything from Gorgonzola, mozzarella and burrata to pecorino and Parmigiano-Reggiano, the King of Cheeses.
The idea that a simple food like milk can produce such a variety of styles and flavor sensations is one that has intrigued me for a long time. The late author Clifton Fadiman once called cheese “milk’s leap toward immortality.”
True Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese has a distinctly flaky, slightly grainy texture that occurs during aging when amino acids in the milk crystallize. Parmigiano-Reggiano has been produced since at least the 13th century in a region of northern Italy that consists of the provinces of Parma and Reggio Emilia. The only ingredients in the cheese are milk, rennet and salt.
The entire rind of each wheel of authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano is imprinted with the name as well as the month and the year the cheese has being shaped. Within the European Union, Parmesan and Parmigiano-Reggiano are the same cheese, but in the United States, “Parmesan” is not regulated.
Look for the stamped rind to make sure you are buying the real deal — a cheese that is intense and complex, with nutty, sweet, grassy, creamy and fruity flavors. Eat chunks of this cheese out of hand or use it in some of your favorite recipes.