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Let's be honest about Parmesan cheese

I can't be the only one who thinks Parmesan has little to no flavor. I dutifully buy good cheese with "Reggiano" on the rind and I add it to the food as a recipe indicates. I don't skimp on the portions. I don't grate in advance of using it. I cannot tell the difference whether I do all of the above or I skip it entirely. Is it me? I know there are "supertasters" but am I a "lack-of-taster" when it comes to Parmesan? Or do the people from Parma have us all brainwashed and convinced of their cheese's superiority? I'd rather have Romano!

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  1. Where are you buying your Parm? My daughter's math teacher made the same comment to me, and when I asked this question, he said "Sam's Club." It was, indeed, genuine Parm, but of the lowest allowable grade, and it had been wrapped in plastic for God knows how long. I sent him to my favorite cheese shop, where they cut the cheese fresh from a wheel that's usually at least 18 months old. He couldn't believe the difference. If you're paying less than $14/lb, you're not getting the good stuff. In a big city, it's probably going to cost you more. TASTE BEFORE YOU BUY! This is the only way to know if the cheese you are buying is worth the price. If you don't live near a good cheese shop, I highly recommend igourmet.com. They have many excellent cheeses, including several great Parms.

    10 Replies
    1. re: pikawicca

      It's true that I've bought some inexpensive cheese from Trader Joe's and the regular grocery store. It's also true that I bought some from Whole Foods and from the really good cheese shop at the Eastern Market in Detroit. I don't recall the price but in theory I wouldn't be opposed to spending that much for a small hunk. It hasn't seemed to make any difference. But I will take your advice and ask for a taste next time.

      1. re: ETRIXIE

        It truly makes a difference where you buy your cheese. Cheap Parmesan cheese is rather bland and sometimes even rubbery. Great Parmesan has an incredible intensity with chewy, salty crystals, sweetness, and lingering flavors. At certain cheese shops you can even purchase Parmesan aged for different amounts of time, the older cheese become even more intense. I recently had the same experience at Trader Joe's when I purchased a Manchego cheese at a "bargain" price that was absolutely bland and disappointing. I usually buy my cheese at Cowgirl Creamery at the Ferry Building in SF, and even though most of the cheeses there sell for the outrageous prices of $16-35/lb, I find that it always worth it because there is so much flavor and quality in their cheeses; not to mention integrity and the satisfaction of knowing that you are supporting true craftmanship.

        1. re: Porcini

          gotta agree about much of tj"s cheese.
          i only buy organic mozzarella there for my kid, but the other 'upscale' cheeses they sell there are, imho, not worth the calories.

          1. re: westsidegal

            ALTHOUGH... i found a goat cheddar at TJs that i love.

      2. re: pikawicca

        pikawicca - how do you store your cheese once you get it home?

        1. re: howchow

          Wrap in a paper towel, then put in a plastic Ziploc bag. Every time I use the cheese, I wrap it in a fresh paper towel -- keeps a really long time.

        2. re: pikawicca

          Actually less in a big city, just got parm at Di Palo's in NY, $12/lb and this is prob as good as it gets.

          1. re: Produce Addict

            Agreed - and the parm at Di Palo's is fabulous. Generally cheaper in NYC than in DC or Miami - in fact I found generally that "gourmet" products are cheaper in NYC than in the other two large cities in which I've lived.

            1. re: MMRuth

              Teitel's in the Bronx sells excellent reggiano at about $9/lb. Not my absolute favorite as a stand-alone parm, but great for cooking and general seasoning purposes - and I've never found a better value.

              1. re: Striver

                Thanks - I've seen that when I've been up there but haven't tried it yet - glad to hear that it is good.

        3. I agree with you, etrixie. I regularly buy Parmesan Reggiano and have it grated together with an equal amount or more, of Romano. The Romano adds the zing (salt) to the mix.

          1. It may be personal preference but I doubt you got the good stuff.

            Good ones are great just eaten out of hand. Never mind grating over the pasta. It should taste faintly sweet, subtly nutty, a little bit of salty, savory at the same time. Love it shaved on top of arugula salads.

            P.S. The ones from TJ or Costco's are not the good ones.

            1. If you don't mind me asking ETRIXIE, what do you think Parmigiano-Reggiano should taste like? What is (was) your expectation?

              1 Reply
              1. re: Chinon00

                I guess buttery, slightly salty, something reminiscent of cheese. At least something with a flavor I would realize was missing when it was omitted.

              2. I love Parm cheese. Dishes just aren't the same without it. Romano is nice for sprinkling on zesty sauces but really can't replace the nutty warm flavor of Parm. A
                nd it is also not nice for eating but parm is delicious for eating or shaving onto salads.

                1. I always use romano as opposed to parmesan. Personally, I like the taste and the zing better.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: QueenB

                    I've known many who have preferred the sharper romano. So it may be just your personal preference.

                    For me, there's nothing like the complex, salty, sweet, nutty, mellow flavor of parmesan.

                    1. re: Miss Needle

                      Oh, it's most definitely a personal preferance. Hence, the use of the word, "Personally".

                    2. re: QueenB

                      Same here. My grandma always used Pecorino Romano instead of parmesan in her cooking, or to sprinkle on spaghetti. But she never called it 'Romano.' She just called it 'cheese.' As in "Do you have enough cheese? I just bought three pounds so you can take a jar home."

                      Growing up, I actually assumed it was Parmigiano, and when I went to buy it myself, kept wondering why the flavor was different (actually, I thought the cheese had gone stale). Now I know to buy Romano, but I've also learned to appreciate good Parmigiano. Still prefer the Romano for most uses, though.

                      1. re: Kagey

                        Where was your grandmother from? For most northern Italian recipes, substituting Romano for Parmiggiano (or other grana) is pure lunacy; the flavors are often too delicate to balance the romano. However, starting at about Rome and heading south, many recipes include ingredients (garlic, parsley, hot chili flakes, etc.) that can stand up to the Romano.

                        1. re: mangiatore

                          My grandparents were from an area close to Naples. My sister lives in Florence, and her boyfriend is from Sardegna. He cooks a lot with the chili, parsley, garlic, etc., like you say. But they don't use Romano, either! They use Parmigiano. I suspect Romano entered the picture when my grandparents were in New York. They always bought it at the same shop on Arthur Ave in the Bronx.

                    3. I'm a big fan of good parmesan/regianno, and not so keen on the saltier romano cheeses.

                      However, I've found with parmesan that it adds the most flavor when it's barely stirred in or not stirred in at all. When the grated bits of parmesan can touch your tongue and then interact with the other flavors in your pasta, it has the best effect. Especially true for something subtle-yet-earthy like pasta with mushroom-based sauces.

                      1. we buy Stravecchio Parmesan from CostCo at about $10/lb. It is far and away better then any other we've had of it's kind, whether from Whole Foods, Fairway or even the local Italian specialty shop. It has a very winey and somewhat nutty flavor. We'd be happy to eat by itself. I believe it is aged 18 months.

                        1. Reggiano is wonderful for eating out of hand-- no other parm I've tasted has the complexity of flavor (esp creamy nuttiness) but subtleties get buried when it's used as a grating cheese. Although reggiano's still cheese of choice with lightly-dressed salads and carpaccio, any romano stands up better to most sauces (that kind of peculiar, round, acidy saltiness). In fact, inferior parms (less complex, saltier) are better on many things (esp. tomato-based sauces), but romano is a better companion to tomato....

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: alias wade

                            "any romano stands up better to most sauces"
                            This presumes that the cheese is always meant to "stand up" to the sauce, which is not the case. In milder recipes, it's meant to blend into the sauce, for texture and subtle flavor. See my comments above.

                          2. Fresh grated adds much flavor and iin NYC we have many great options for wonderful cheese. I am not expert, but I notice that I really love "Locatelli." I dont know the technical difference between romano, locatelli, pecorino etc. I would love to learn the difference. Perhaps Reggiano isn't your thing, try the "parms",

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: Ora

                              Pecorino is a Italian designation for hard/aged cheeses made from sheep's milk. Many excellent pecorinos are produced across Italy, some of the more famous including Pecorino Toscano (sheep's milk cheese from Tuscany), Pecorino Sardo (from Sardinia), Pecorino Siciliano (you get the idea). Probably the best known pecorino in the United States is Pecorino Romano.

                              Locatelli is one of the four creameries in Italy that is legally allowed to produce D.O.P. (Denominazione di Origine Protetta) Pecorino Romano.

                              In regards to the original poster: it could be possible that the flavor of the parmesan is simply being overpowered by the dishes over which you're grating it. I'd assume you've tried eating slices of parmesan, but if so, I'm afraid I can't really imagine how you'd call it flavorless. Most turophiles will agree that parmesan is one of the biggest, boldest cheeses produced.

                              Perhaps your disappointment stems from misplaced expectations. Parmesan is not really "buttery," as you'd imagined it might be. It is quite salty. Again try eating a slice, rather than minuscule shavings of DOP Parmigiano-Reggiano (which ought to be available at Whole Foods, pretty consistently), if you're skeptical about the saltiness.

                              Parmesan does not taste "something reminiscent of cheese," if you're imagining all cheese to taste like a Camembert, Mimolette, or Kraft single. For many with a more varied notion of what cheese should taste like, Parmesan is a standard high water mark of cheese making excellence.

                              1. re: Michael Juhasz

                                I completely agree with Michael Juhasz. I just wanted to add that if you were so used to Romano, which does have a more pungent flavour than parm reg, your taste buds would have been used to that and thats maybe why you find the parm not as flavourful...i much prefer parm to romano but thats just my personal opinion. I certainly can taste when I have added parm to my risotto as opposed to when I havent. Its not like you get a WHACK of parm flavour, but you notice that it is a much rounder flavour and tastes complete.

                                1. re: Michael Juhasz

                                  quick correction: Pecorino is the term applicable to sheep's milk cheeses of all ages. There are young pecorinos. otherwise, I agree.

                                2. re: Ora

                                  I agree that fresh grated is key: it loses flavour if you store it grated. And I also agree you lose something when you grate it.

                                  I really love a hunk of Reggiano with a drizzle of really great aged balsamico. this is fantastic!

                                3. time and place, man.
                                  there's something sooooo good about thin slices of parmesan on carpaccio or with arugula coated in a lemony dressing. nubs of parm for snacking on is good too

                                  Romano for me, is great on arrabiatta though.

                                  all cheese is good in my world

                                  1. It depends on my mood which cheese Jffod grabs from the frisge. Current stock includes thre - Parm, romano and asiago. When the meal is plated I take a deep breath and open the fridge. Can go in either direction. Mrs Jfood is on an Asiago kick right now, likes the sharpness, could be the weather.

                                    Last night jfood pulled a reverse and after three months of asiago, grabbed the parm and it felt right with the change in the weather to the upside.

                                    My meatball recipe calls for Parm, but a 50/50 parm/romano mix tastes better.

                                    1. After a few experiences buying a lower grade of Parmesan and throwing it out, I have come to a few conlusions. Quality matters.

                                      The lower grades of Italian Parmesan, and the so-called Parmesan sold at CostCo, Whole Foods etc are inferior and not worth buying. They have no quality control, and are tasteless, flat, and downright awful.

                                      Imported DOP Parmigiano-Reggiano from Italy comes in different grades. If you love Parmesan as an eating cheese, to serve on a cheese platter with fruit, or drizzled with extra aged Balsamic Vinegar, by all means go for it. It runs around $24 per pound at Murray's. It is unbelievably complex and delicious.

                                      If you use it for grating or cooking, the lower grade is perfectly fine. It runs from $11-16 per pound at Murray's, Fairway, and other top cheese purveyors. I would suggest buying only from reputable cheese mongers with a high turnover. Store your cheese in the fridge. I wrap it in Murray's cheese paper and put it in a ZipLock Freezer bag. It keeps for months. I usually buy no more than 8 oz pieces.

                                      Always buy your DOP Parmigiano-Reggiano in a whole piece, never pre-grated. I use a simple Microplane grater at the table, and the Cuisinart for large quantities.

                                      I repeat what OP said "ALWAYS TASTE BEFORE YOU BUY". I always do. Every wheel of cheese is different.

                                      This week at Murray's I bought some beautiful creamy Roquefort. I tasted it first. For the last few weeks, the Roquefort, same brand, same price, has been overly salty and grainy. Buying from a Cheese Monger who encourages tasting saves money in the end. You never get home, taste it, and say "Ugh!" and throw it in the trash.

                                      Excellent cheeses are also available by mail from places like Dean and de Luca and Zingerman's. For those who don't have access to Murray's, Fairway, or the equivalent, it is an excellent option.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: Fleur

                                        Fleur, you say DOP Parmigiano-Reggiano comes in different grades....how does one ascertain which grade is being offered.?...are there special markings on the rind to look for?


                                        1. re: ChowFun_derek

                                          If you buy from a really good cheese merchant, they will tell you. If you know Parm, YOU will know. Older Parm has luscious little crystalized bits in it that crunch when you taste it (before buying). Also, look at the thickness of a cut wedge: the thicker the dark edge near the rind, the older the cheese (and the tastier, IMO, as long as it has been properly stored. Above all, believe your taste buds -- good Parm should have a definite WOW factor.

                                          1. re: ChowFun_derek

                                            I think you have to rely on the reputation and quality of the shop where you buy your cheese.

                                            The different qualities, are actually cheeses that have been aged for different periods of time or made from special milk from speacial cows.. Price is also an indication, when different grades are offered at the same shop.

                                            For grating on Pasta, I use the regular DOP Parmigiano-Reggiano, for salads and other dishes, the medium grade. For the cheese platter, only the best.

                                            I am very fortunate to live in NY where everything is readily available. I avoid places like Trader Joe and Whole Foods, and stick to shops like Murray's, which is the absolute best, and for Italian items, di Paolo.They have highly trained personnel who are cheese lovers as well as experts.

                                            The great thing is that for people who live in areas that don't have these kind of shops, almost everything is available by mail.

                                        2. Once you've had the good stuff it will be a moot point. I jumped from the Green Kraft can directly to a cut to order off a big beautiful wheel in a little Italian deli in Los Angeles by accident when I wanted to make fettucine Alfredo for the first time. Crumbly, salty, tangy and heaven in the dish. They would cut a wedge per the amount you wanted, but sometimes the middle would break out a bit and the guy would offer as a treat. Wow! After that I tried some of the shrink wrapped stuff and other delis but did not come close. These guys were so honest that if the piece had alot of rind they would discount it a bit. Keep tasting till you get the real deal.

                                          1. Funny I love parm, but I find provolone tasteless...

                                            7 Replies
                                            1. re: Emme

                                              That's because you've never had sharp provolone, perhaps? It bears no resemblance to that waxy bland pap sold at supermarkets or even the regular provolone sold at better cheese stores. It is sharp, salty, strong smelling, and can actually overwhelm other foods so you need to be careful how you use it. In Philly we like it with sauteed broccoli rabe and roast pork on a good Italian roll. There is nothing like it.

                                              1. re: Ellen

                                                I love (and miss) sharp provolone. I always loved a sandwich with sharp prov., prosciutto, roasted red peppers and greens with a drizzle of balsamic and olive oil.

                                                I'd sub a good sharp provolone for american cheese on just about every sandwich I eat, if I could find it down here.

                                                1. re: Ellen

                                                  Nope, have had it, and didn't taste much... Maybe I'm missing the buds... I also don't get Fontina... perhpas they're on the same tastebud. :-)

                                                  1. re: Emme

                                                    Are you getting authentic Italian Fontina? The Danish and other copies are trash. Fontina also develops a much stonger taste when it is heated (e.g., rolled inside a chicken breast with a strip of prosciutto and a leaf of basil).

                                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                                      It recently came on a restaurant menu topping a pasta dish... I haven't purchased it for myself, as I've never liked it when I've had it at restaurants or at friends' houses.

                                                      1. re: Emme

                                                        Try buying yourself some of the good stuff -- it might change your mind. Italian Fontina is one of the world's greatest melting cheeses, with an extremely comlex flavor.

                                                    2. re: Emme

                                                      Danish "fontina" isn't really fontina. You want the Italian stuff, which is expensive, difficult to find (at least in Toronto), and best melted.

                                                2. You are so right, I cant figure out why anyone would use parmesan when they could use Romano, it has so much more flavor and can be used anywhere parmesan is used. And yes good imported provolone is another good choice.

                                                  1. I think you will have to go to Italy and have risotto served out of a wheel of parmigiano, with the cheese freshly grated over the steaming rice. Or thinly shaved slices of fennel bulb (finocchio) and parmigiano drizzled with fine olive oil. You will understand parmigiano. I had to go to France to "get" bread, and never liked retsina til I went to Greece. Nothing like a resiny wine with olives and taramasalata while lying on a beach in Mykonos.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: whs

                                                      I'm with you on the risotto, fennel and bread. Retsina is retsina. I can see how it's perfect in the islands, but I don't want it at home. The other three travel very well.

                                                    2. You are right, much cheese labeled "Parmesan", including "Reggiano", doesn't have much taste. At the lower end of the price spectrum, Romano tastes better. The stuff in the cardboard containers on the grocery shelf has little taste, whatever it's called. But there is a "real thing", and it is divine.

                                                      In Toronto, the best Parmesan I've had came from Pusateri's, where they age it on site and break it apart. Forget grating it on pasta - this stuff was worth eating out of hand. The best of the best I've had from that source was labeled "kosher", which means it wasn't even traditionally produced. But wow.

                                                      I've also had some really good Parmesan from Whole Foods and from local places called Alex Farm and the Cheese Boutique.

                                                      Always taste it. The highest quality has an amazing complexity. If they won't let you taste, don't buy.

                                                      Expensive doesn't necessarily mean good, but the good stuff will always be EXPENSIVE.

                                                      1. The trouble with good DOP parmesan cheese is you eat more of it than you grate! It goes fast.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: coll

                                                          Really. I eat chunks of it almost every night for dessert. I've brought back large pieces from Italy which do taste slightly nuttier than what I can get here in Pgh (@ PennMac) but what we get here is good - and certainly tasty, usually in the $13/lb territory. I would think anyone who finds good parm "tasteless" indeed has a wood palate.

                                                          Personally I only grate parm for risotto and like others, use romano or a mix of hard cheeses for pastas.

                                                          1. re: Panini Guy

                                                            I've been exclusively using PR for all my sauces. I think it really gets lost in a good red sauce or lasagna. I am going to have to pick up some Peccorino Romano next time I go to the store. I've always wanted to try it, but didn't know if I wanted to invest in it. It sounds like it is worth the investment.

                                                        2. I think it's great that you're honest, most people just think they like some things better. I personally can tell a huge difference. Mainly that the good stuff has a nutty flavor absent in other cheeses, and that the not-good stuff is outrageously salty.

                                                          1. I agree with what has been said above. I keep both Parmesan and Romano in the house and use either depending on what flavor I'm looking for in a dish. Eaten out of hand, a good Parmesan is a real treat.

                                                            If, given all that, you still feel that you're not getting the flavor or value that you expect out of Parm, why not try a Grana Padano or other table cheese? The flavor profiles are similar but may be different enough to give you what you're looking for at a lower price. You could also try an aged Asiago. I'm not sure that I would grate it over pasta but i would use it in recipes and that might appeal to you.

                                                            1. Thanks to everyone who weighed in with their suggestions and opinions. I certainly will buy a small chunk of "good" Parmesan at my next opportunity. Sadly, I recently bought a chunk of what must be the cheap stuff which I feel I must use up before buying another. I figure I've gone this long without it and it's wasteful to throw away the stuff I have. I know, I know. I'm missing out until then...

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: ETRIXIE

                                                                ok... but just remember that eating something you don't want to eat is just as much of a waste... except the waste ends up on the tummy.

                                                                1. re: ETRIXIE

                                                                  Much as I love parm, it's not inconceivable to me that someone else may not be crazy about it. We all have different tastes, and somepeople just may prefer that sharper tang of romano (and good romano, not the grocery store stuff, is fabulous).

                                                                2. Four words: Red Cow Parmigiano-Reggiano

                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                  1. re: zin1953

                                                                    Good pick. Murray's Cheese (in NYC and online) sells a Parmigiano Reggiano delle Vacche Rosse which is just terrific - but at about $25 a pound, it better be!!

                                                                    1. re: Striver

                                                                      Interesting that when I last checked L. DiPalo told me they would not sell the "red cow" as the ones imported into this country were not up to his standards. That was last year; I have not checked since.

                                                                      1. re: erica

                                                                        Matching Sr. DiPalo's standards again Murray's would be interesting if there were sufficient data. As it is, I'll generally trust Murray's when it comes to cheese. Maybe they've got a better source?

                                                                        1. re: Striver

                                                                          Who really knows? Not me. I thought there were only a few makers that were imported into the US. I will ask them again when I go but I have not seen it listed on their signs in front of the cheese.

                                                                  2. I personally find that Parmigiano when used in a sauce tends to be a rather subtle flavor that in some cases almost gets lost (especially if the sauce tends toward the salty side.) By itself, the flavor is much different, and nothing like what you might expect if you've been raised on the stuff in the green can. I might have to try some of the Pecorino next time I buy though (I don't go through the stuff all that quickly), to see how it affects the flavor.

                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Vexorg

                                                                      By mixing it together with the sauce and pasta (just prior to serving), the taste of parmigiano does in fact get a bit "lost," in the sense that it doesn't really stand out. That doesn't mean you can't tell it's there -- it still changes the flavor and consistency of the dish, which is what it's meant to do when used this way. The way to get around this is to grate extra parmigiano on top of it once it's on the plate. This way the cheese serves its purpose in the overall mixture but also stands out.

                                                                      1. re: mangiatore

                                                                        I totally agree with you. Its taste is so subtle that I'm piling pasta with mountains of parmesan just to taste it. Of course, I've only had the cheap parmesan.

                                                                      2. re: Vexorg

                                                                        Although what I'm about to say is sacrilege to many posters here, the reality is that I have a big family, and can't always buy fresh Parmigiano or Romano when it's needed. I have them grated together at our Italian cheese store, put in a thick plastic bag, and freeze what doesn't fit into the jar that is kept in the fridge. It lasts for months that way, with very little loss of flavour. I also freeze coffee that way.

                                                                        1. re: Yongeman

                                                                          I don't think that's sacrilege .... I was at Di Palo's and an older Italian woman was there buying cheese for herself and her daughters - 2 pounds each - she had them cut the inside "triangle" of each piece off, and then I believe she asked them to grate the part attached to the rind. The "triangle" part was for eating, the grated for sauces etc.

                                                                          1. re: MMRuth

                                                                            Thanks for that MMRuth. I don't think it's a no-no either. Whatever works for your own situation is what's right. We've always been happy doing it that way--very convenient.

                                                                          2. re: Yongeman

                                                                            I use grated for recipes and solid that I grate fresh to top dishes. Nothing wrong with having it grated.

                                                                        2. use it on its own with a little butter when dressing pasta. Other sauces will just drown it.

                                                                          1. All this talk on the cheese and I am surprised that no one has yet mentioned that the flavor of parmesan is directly affected by how the cheese is grated.

                                                                            My first introduction to reggiano parmigiano was through an Italian friend of my mother's. She bought her cheese from an Italian deli in Baltimore, and not only that, the deli grated the cheese in a certain manner. It wasn't shredded into fine powder a la Kraft's parmesan, nor was it the grated cheddar style into big thick shreds. The deli had grated the cheese into a substance similar to coarse and crumbly breadcrumbs, and the flavor was outstanding.

                                                                            When I first bought my own parmesan cheese, I made the mistake of grating it into the style of Kraft's traditional 1950s parmesan cheese, and as you can imagine, much of the flavor was missing. It wasn't until I went to the same deli that my mother's friend bought her cheeses from that I realized what I had done wrong.

                                                                            Lesson here: reggiano parmigiano is not meant to be pulverized into powder. I was surprised to see Whole Foods sell prepackaged, pre-shredded reggiano parmesean that had no flavor (well, this is the same store that sells the parmesan rind for soup flavoring, after removing virtually all cheese products from the rind and leaving only the flavorless wax). When Wegmans opened up outside Baltimore, it was a pleasant discovery that Wegmans sells pre-grated reggiano parmigiano in the old fashioned Italian deli manner-coarse and crumbly, and packed with flavor even after a few weeks in the refrigerator. Next time you buy reggiano parmigiano, try to get it coarsly grated. You may have to go to a specialty cheese store if you don't have a Wegmans or an Italian deli handy.

                                                                            One other bit of warning: until recently reggiano parmigiano was a specialty cheese and found only at gourmet markets and cheese shops. The last few years has seen the appearance of "reggiano parmigiano" at many standard chains, and as you may expect, the overall quality of the cheese available has declined. The reg parm you find at the Giant or A&P isn't going to be the same reg parm from your city's fanciest gourmet market.

                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Roland Parker

                                                                              You can obtain this wonderful crumbly texture by cutting your Parm into chunks and dropping them into a food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Make sure the processor is running before you add the cheese, otherwise the blade might seize.

                                                                              1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                That is the method I use to control the chunk size of the parm (or romano!)
                                                                                Works really well...

                                                                              2. re: Roland Parker

                                                                                I always use the rotary cheese grater with good results. Not coarse, and not too fine. I heap a mountain of it just before serving.

                                                                                Since parm and romano are key ingredients in a good carbonara I use really good parm and it does show. On a tomatoey sauce the flavor is too subtle and it's really best to grate on top of the pasta before serving, and grate more as more pasta is consumed.

                                                                              3. This should solve your problem:


                                                                                Aged 2.5 years. Incredible. I buy some at the shop every week.

                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Bostonbob3

                                                                                  I enjoy parmesan on many things and reach for the more expensive kind. I am eating pasta right now with olive oil + parmesan + romano + garlic + cayenne. One thing to know about these cheeses is that they contain natural MSG. While some of these cheeses have a creamy taste, many are primarily used to add "savory" to dishes. Make spaghetti, put parmesan on a bite, then not on the next.. see the difference?

                                                                                  1. re: thunkened

                                                                                    Just a slight correction: Parmagiano contains glumatates (glutamic acid) but not "natural MSG." As do peas, mushrooms, tomatoes and hundreds of other foods.

                                                                                2. I have no taste buds for Parmesan

                                                                                  1. Have you ever tried Parmagianno Regianno on it's own during a cheese course? I find what makes it one of the better hard cheeses in the world is more prominent under those circumstances: lemony tart rich deep and candied. Paired with a Nebbiolo is quite a treat I find.
                                                                                    And personally I don't get sea urchin yet either. Doesn't mean though that the reason for it's prominence among sushi lovers should be questioned.

                                                                                    1. One of life's more pleasurable moments is breaking off a few modest chunks of parmagianno regianno and settling in with a medium-bodied red wine at the end of the day. It improves my attitude 100 per-cent.

                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: steve h.

                                                                                        I like it with a couple of drops of Saba on it.

                                                                                        1. re: steve h.

                                                                                          We just did a wine/cheese tasting this weekend.
                                                                                          Served shaved Red Cow Parm-Regg with a drop or two of very old Balsamic Vinegar
                                                                                          and a glass of red wine. Customers loved it. Even priced at $25 lb., sold quite a bit.
                                                                                          People were amazed at the difference from the supermarket cheese.

                                                                                          1. re: steve h.

                                                                                            even with a glass of pelligrino it is heaven

                                                                                          2. I know this is an old thread, but it is funny to me that you prefer Romano. I hate Romano, and both Pecorino and Locatelli are cheeses that I would never willingly add to my food.
                                                                                            I grew up with Sardo, from Argentina, which is very similar to Parmesan, but has a more distinct flavor. I actually prefer younger Parmesan than the aged stuff. To each his own, I suppose.

                                                                                            1. I think the point of adding Parmesan to things like pasta sauces is more for the glutamates than the identifiable taste. It's like fish sauce: not necessarily a flavor you'd pick out in the end product. If you just want to give your sauce a bit of umami, I don't see the point in going for a top-notch cheese. Blasphemer that I am, I actually use the pre-grated stuff from Trader Joe's for things like this.

                                                                                              Of course, a nice piece of parmesan is great on its own, or in a salad. But it's probably wasted in your pasta sauce (unless it's actually a cheese-based sauce).

                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: Scrofula

                                                                                                For me a lot depends on how you dress your pasta and how the cheese is applied. With tomato based sauces I tend to dress lightly. This gives the cheese a better shot of being perceived. I also shave curls of PR onto plated pasta versus grating it. This too helps the cheese become more prominent I think. And for things like mushroom risotto or mushroom sauces I think PR is more easily picked up grated, shaved or otherwise.


                                                                                                1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                  I tend to go easy on the (tomato) sauce as well, but still don't use enough cheese for the flavor to be recognizable. It still gives the sauce a nice savoriness.

                                                                                                  I agree that good cheese is easier to appreciate on things like mushroom risotto. It seems to serve a slightly different function on those kinds of dishes.

                                                                                              2. Strange, strange thread, actually. Parmigiano-Regianno is the EU domain designation (DOP) for a cheese that is at least 18 months old (my shop only sells Parmigiano-Regianno that is at least 30 months old) and that is made from raw skim milk. It is the single most regulated cheese on the planet. Because of the way that the cows that provide the milk are fed, this is a very seasonal cheese. March cheese tastes very different from October cheese, for instance. And there are few choicer delights than a well-aged piece of Parmiqiano-Regianno, freshly cut from it's 80 pound wheel. Having said all that, Pecorino Romano is one of my favorite cheeses ever. Mind you, I didn't say "romano". American "romano" is a cow's milk cheese and is basically, as with American "parmesan", gratable salt with little or no discernable dairy flavor at all. No matter WHAT kind of cheese you buy, let me leave you with a couple of final thoughts: 1. pre-cutting cheese, particularly good, hard cheeses and good very soft cheeses, is the surest way to kill flavor and 2. All pre-grated and pre-shredded cheeses contain an anti-caking agent (usually cellulose). The problem is that the same thing that keeps them from caking (a good thing, I suppose) keeps them from MELTING well (a bad thing, certainly). This is why sauces made from pre-grated cheeses are always grainy rather than smooth and silky.

                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: mcglothlen

                                                                                                  one correction: Parmigiano Reggiano is made from partially skimmed milk, not "skim milk". Afternoon milk that is skimmed (and the cream used to butter ans mascarpone) and whole morning milk.

                                                                                                  1. re: mcglothlen

                                                                                                    I remember learning about the seasonal thing, but I don't remember the specific difference in the way the cows are fed—could you elaborate? Also, aren't the milks combined—aren't the cows milked in both the morning and evening or something?

                                                                                                  2. Hi, Just wondering, should parm/regi smell like old socks?

                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                    1. re: Orwandil

                                                                                                      Yeah, that's a pretty good way of describing their smell. It should be a little footy.

                                                                                                    2. Oh my god good parmesan is not flavorless. I remember going to a restaurant in Parma where it was on the menu as an appetizer—which meant that they literally brought a WHEEL to your table with a little chipping knife and two kinds of mostarda di frutta, and they charged you for however much you chipped off. I honestly began to fear I'd be charged for the whole damn wheel.

                                                                                                      1. I don't find it flavorless. I buy wedges from a good cheese monger to use on certain dishes, especially when I want something fresh to grate on top, or a rind for my soup. I do buy a pregrated non Reggiano for sprinking on popcorn, or for dishes where the complexity of the expensive stuff gets lost.

                                                                                                        1. When OP wrote 'let's be honest', I thought I'd have to stand up and admit I regularly slice chunks off it instead of just grating it. (Hangs head in shame)

                                                                                                          1. I'm Italian and grew up in Chicago. My grandmother and mother were both born in Italy. I have always preferred the taste of Romano over Parmesan. As a matter of fact, I refuse to use Parmesan whenever Romano is readily available. I always have Romano in my refrigerator ready to go. I don't think I have purchased Parmesan cheese in over 15 years.