A product and the land where it comes from  May 2011
    by Nunzio Romano

Parmigiano-Reggiano or Parmesan?

Parmigiano Reggiano is likely the most imitated cheese in the whole world and the use of the name Parmesan can often deceive.


When Parmigiano Reggiano is discussed out of the Italian borders the first questions made is: “Parmigiano Reggiano and Parmesan are the same thing?”

The right answer to this question would be “yes.. and no”.

For some this answer is evident, but for many more it is not that clear. First of all there is a necessary geographic specification: in 2008 the “Court of Justice of the European Union” has establish that in all Europe only the Parmigiano-Reggiano DOP can be sold with the name of “Parmesan”.

On the contrary in the US “Parmesan” is often a translation of the name “Parmigiano”, and it is generally used to call other hard cheeses, usually grated, that imitate the original Parmigiano-Reggiano. For this reason we can say that Parmigiano-Reggiano is actually a “parmesan”, but on the other hand the cheese that are generally sold as Parmesan are not Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Parmigiano-Reggiano Even though for some the issues around the denomination of cheese and on DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) can appear to be only a bureaucratic quirk, it is actually vital to have a more clear prospective of the differences on the cheese market. The name Parmigiano-Reggiano can guarantee the fulfillment of standards precisely defined by a disciplinary that determines all the characteristics of the cheese.

There are precise laws, for example, on what the cows can and cannot eat; what type of cows can produce the milk used to prepare the cheese; rules on how the cheese has to be produced; how long it has to age, and so on. These aspects are of fundamental importance to define the cheese characteristics. If the Parmigiano Reggiano denomination is not used there are no certainties that these procedures are followed and no guarantee that the product bought has those high standards that have made the Parmigiano Reggiano famous worldwide.

In conclusion we can say that the difference between the cheeses called “Parmesan” and “Parmigiano-Reggiano”, other than the production area, is in the quality guaranteed: the first are products similar, for taste and form, to the second whose name is though a guarantee of defined laws of authenticity and quality.

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2 “Parmigiano-Reggiano or Parmesan?”

  1. Chef Willy Olund says:

    Although Parmigiano-Reggiano is what I feel is the best parmesan in America. I must say it is not nearly as good of flavor and texture as what you would get from Parma or Salsomaggorie region of Italy.

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