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May 22, 2006 11:03 AM

Is Grana Padano just a regional version of Parmigiano-Reggiano?

  • r

How is it different? I think it tastes better … not as salty, milder and pleasantly oily. To me it seems more elegant than Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Is it really a healthier low fat cheese as the website seems to say?

I never heard of it until the other day. It has only been made for the last thousand years and the best selling cheese in Italy. I am not that into hard cheeses so it flew beneath my chow radar.

Are there any specific brands to look for? Or is it like Parmigiano-Reggiano where the brand/type is the same thing?

Has anyone seen this sold in various stages of maturity? The Italian cheese shop I bought it didn’t seem to have a clue.

Does anyone really use the special knife to shave pieces off?

Excluding recipes how do you use it? Does it pair well with specific fruits or meats or breads?

What wine would it pair with? I've read champagne or Borolo are good.

If you have any recipes please post using this link


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  1. My understanding is that Grana Padano is Parmigiano that doesn't pass the strict selection process for "official" Parmigiano during the production process.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Pete G.

      No. I know that is not true from what I've read.

      It can only be made is specific regions in Italy and under strict guidelines. Those standards are recognized all over Europe and you cant call a cheese Grana Padano unless it meets those standards. There was some sort of big European fight and lawsuit over this.

      I'm asking if there are differneces in these grana cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano and Grana Padano other than region in Italy. My understanding is that Parmigiano-Reggiano has only been made in the last 200 years while Grana Padano dates back over 1000 years.

      Some opinions I've read is that Parmigiano-Reggiano is the superior cheese with more complexity. Of course, as soon as the good cheese shops open around here I'm going to have to do a taste comparison. However I like GP better than PR as a straight eating cheese I think. I find PR too salty and strong to eat on its own ... and yes, I've had the top quality I could find in the SF Bay area. It wasn't a matter of getting a shrink-wrapped hunk at Safeway.


      1. re: rworange

        "" has a good article on the differences. I've eaten a lot of cheese over the years, and personally prefer reggiano.

        I've also noticed, as you might expect, that there are differences from one store's reggiano to another's. For example, I buy my parmigiano at three basic places in NYC - Fairway (regular shopping run), Zabar's (occasional), and Mike's Deli in the Bronx (also occasional).

        They're all very good for any purpose, including cutting a wedge and eating it - but they aren't the same, and I actually prefer Mike's (nuttier, more complex flavor) followed by Zabar's followed by Fairway's (which also happens to be in the order of declining price). Allow me to reiterate that I prefer all of them to any grana padano I've had.


        1. re: Striver

          That really was a good article. It gives me a new buzz word in addition to artisan when seeking out that next piece of Grana Padano ... hand-crafted.

          Yeah, that's going to draw blank stares at some cheese stores. It will be my litmus test in terms of the quality of the cheese ... blank stare ... find another shop ... otherwise, strike up a cheese conversation. Anyone in Berkeley, I'll tell you that at A.G. Ferrari you'll get a blank stare. The question about how aged the cheese was got a blank stare. What can I say, it was one of two cheese shops open on Sunday.

          Also nice to know that the Padano comes from Pianura Padana, Italy's northern plain.

          It seems that Grana Padano is more likely to be commercially produced rather than hand crafted, which might explain why PR gets the edge. Maybe I lucked out with a good version of GP.

          It was interesting about the difference in flavor due to the grass consumed by the cows ...

          "Well, what's the difference?"you ask. Primarily the forage; the meadows in the production area between Parma and Reggio have certain grasses, while those of the meadows of the section of Lombardy that produces Grana have others. As a result there are slight differences in flavor and color (Grana is paler)."

          Looking around on the web yesterday, it seems that the GP people are interested in the cheapest feed for the cows. There are a number of scientific studies saying if the cows are fed ... something cheaper, I forget, it doesn't impact the flavor ... sure. Then again, I wasn't looking too closely at what the PR cows were chowing down on.

          Also the about article gave me a new search term ... Formaggio Grana ... which led to wikipedia with some nice high-level info and other links.

          Anyway thanks for the article. I guess gentrification started with monks. The monks move in and before you know it, a desolate marsh becomes Milan. Seems no one considered environmental impacts on filling in marsh lands back in the dark ages.

          Darn. I wish the Cheeseboard was open on Monday.


          1. re: Striver

            The P-R they sell at DiPalo's is noticeably better than either Zabar's or Fairway - mostly I assume because they have high turnover and cut it off huge pieces rather than having sit for as much as a couple of weeks in pre-cut smaller pieces. And they will also grate it for you on the spot, which can be very convenient - definitely tastes a _lot_ better than the stuff in plastic tubs at Zabar's or Fairway. Their price is no higher, and possibly a little cheaper to boot.

            I'm sure there are other places as good (like Murray's), but I just like shopping at DiPalo's myself.

            I find the Grana Padano a little sharper than P-R, but sometimes you want just that flavor (instead of say, mixing pecorino & P-R), so sometimes I go looking specifically for it instead of the P-R.

            1. re: MikeG

              Yeah, Mike's Deli on Arthur Ave. is definitely my favorite, and they also cut it to order - no pre-wrapped. I do think, though, that it's also cheese from a different source within the reggiano-parmigiano district. The taste is simply not the same (really, all three are different). I'll have to try their grana padano.

              I don't like the cheese grated beforehand, though, unless I'm going to use it up very quickly.

              1. re: MikeG

                For me, di Palo is in a class by itself. I always get a pound of their Parmigiano-Reggiano and another of their even better Pecorino Romano. You take a taste of the Pecorino and are still enjoying it 5 minutes later.

                I grate both of them in copious amounts over one or another twisted-shape pasta and a jar of pesto. (Their own is good, but is the imported stuff in the semi-globular jar with the the rubber sealer and compression top is even better.)

                HOWEVER, if you don't get their first thing in the morning, be prepared to wait in line for the better part of an hour. The service is marvelous, but there are so many things to taste that each customer takes a long time to get through.

                How are the lines at Mike's on Arthur Avenue? Can you even get in the store on a Saturday afternoon?

                1. re: KRS

                  It's not often we redirect conversations from general topics back to a local board, but in this case, the conversation is veering away from discussing the cheeses to discussing local sources for them. Please continue that discussion on your local board where you'll get local input on it.

        2. The article below might help understand the differences, and more.


          3 Replies
          1. re: RicRios

            I think the article has it right. Too many Americans get confused because of all the lousy rubbery "parmesan" cheese made in the US and assume that Parmesan isn't worth it. I personally much prefer it to any domestic, to Grana Padano, and even to Italian Romano. I wouldn't think about making a Caesar salad or a risotto without it.


            1. re: e.d.

              Thanks for the article Rico. Odd that it says that PR has less salt. I've tried dry Assagio too and found that as salty as PR.

              Well, I'll just have to expand my cheese tasting the, PR, GP, dry Assagio and Romano ... and I guess a nice bottle of champagne.

              1. re: rworange

                As to the champagne...
                I came back from Reggio-Emilia (Parma, actually) last week. I was given by locals one of the best imaginable liquid matches to PR, also local to Regio-Emilia: 2002 Malvasia Passito Vigna del Volta, a wonderfully luscious liquid gold, comes in 500cc bottles (20 Euro or so), available from a couple importers in US. However, for an orgasmic (sorry, board) experience, just drop some Balsamico Tradizionale on top of the cheese -no wine-.

          2. Reggiano is can only be produced within the designated Parma region, while grana padano is produced in many regions of Italy, but it is strictly controlled by an overseeing body (as you noted). Grana padano is also less expensive than reggiano, and retains a lot of quality that reggiano has. But, I guess I'm more of a traditionalist and think reggiano tastes better, but not by a lot. And while reggiano is sold in different stages of maturity (nuovo, vecchio, stravecchio), I don't think I've ever seen grana padano in such grades. However, while reggiano by itself can be a brand name, some producers seem to make a tastier cheese than others -- but it's hard to find that kind of detail here.

            You don't really need a special knife to shave pieces off. There's only a special knife used to break apart the whole wheel.

            Besides eating chunks of it, it's a grating cheese, so use it on pasta, salads, etc., as you would any other kind of grating cheese.

            If you like grana padano, you might also want to try a dry asiago.

            1. Parmigiano-Reggiano is made by literally hundreds of producers in locations South of the River Po, from just West of Bologna to just East of Piacenza on the West. If you look at a full wheel you will note a number on the side of the wheel. If you look up that number in a little book that the association produces or on their web site you can find the exact dairy and location of where that particular piece of cheese was produced. What we get in the U.S. is marked for Export. I'm not sure why, but I find the cheese eaten in the region to be nuttier, sweeter and more moist than that which I get here. They have records documenting production for at least 700 years. Grand Padano has a larger production area, but overlaps the Parmigiano-Reggiano region, is used as a cheaper substitute for the Parmigiano-Reggiano, but still very nice, albeit, I feel, sharper and coarser in its flavor.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Curmudgeon

                Absolutely, the Italians keep the best for themselves!

                Along with the differences among producers, parm tastes different according to aging (the complexity of a 24 month aged vs. a relatively young 9 month is tremendous) and by season (when the cows are milked, as they eat differently by the season. Winter milk is much richer and fattier, as the cows are mostly eating hay in the barn vs. summer when they are grazing grass and flowers.) Everything comes out in the cheese.

                Growing up thinking that Parm came in green containers pre-grated (JUNK!!!) I wasn't too impressed. It wasn't until living in Italy and being able to taste the complexity of the cheese that Parm became one of my favorite table cheeses. I would NEVER grate the stravecchio over anything. That stuff gets nibbled straight into my mouth, maybe with a little honey.

                And actually, instead of Grana (not a fan) my favorite alternative is aged Piave.

              2. I think Grana Padano has a milder, more delicate flavor than Parmigiano-Reggiano, which is why I often go for the latter.

                As with most cheeses, not all Grana Padano is created equally. If you see the product at the link in your local market, avoid it at all costs. It is from Italy, but even Italy has its own versions of Kraft.