Parmesan cheese made outside Italy is considered an imitation of the authentic Parmigiano Reggiano, which must be produced in specific Italian provinces. While imitations can be produced globally and labeled as Parmesan, only cheese from regions like Parma, Modena, or Reggio Emilia can be called authentic Parmigiano Reggiano.
Does Parmesan Have to Be From Italy?
So, in truth, Parmesan doesn’t have to be from Italy.
However, for it to be considered an authentic Parmesan cheese, then it must be made within a certain region of Italy.
Firstly, “Parmesan” refers specifically to the northern Italian city of Parma.
So, this in itself should tell you that authentic Parmesan should come from Parma.
That being said, this isn’t completely true.
Now, the “authentic” Parmesan is Parmigiano Reggiano, which is often referred to as Parmesan Reggiano.
And for a cheese to be an authentic Reggiano, it must be made in one of 330 dairies in the Italian countryside while being made to some very exacting specifications.
The places where authentic Parmigiano Reggiano is produced are:
- Reggio Emilia
However, in reality, Reggiano is only occasionally produced in Bologna and Modena.
Therefore, the vast majority of Parmesan Reggiano will come from the other 3 provinces.
This also means that Parmesan can be produced, manufactured, and sold in any country.
However, it will never be viewed as real, authentic, and traditional Parmesan by Italians.
What’s the Difference Between Parmesan and Parmesan Reggiano?
Well, I guess you already know the main difference between Parmesan and Parmesan Reggiano.
And this, of course, is where they are made.
That being said, there are a few other contrasting elements to these cheeses.
I would say one of the major differences is how long they are aged.
Parmesan Reggiano obviously must be made in particular regions of Italy, and they can only contain certain approved ingredients.
However, Reggiano is typically aged for a minimum of one year and can be aged for up to 3 years.
This is longer than many traditional kinds of cheese, but it is also the main reason for the granular texture and rich flavor of Parmesan Reggiano.
Parmesan, on the other hand, is often aged for as little as 10 months.
This will immediately mean that there’s a different taste and texture between the two kinds of cheese.
It’s also interesting to note that the word “Parmesan” is not regulated in the United States.
Therefore, a cheese labeled as Parmesan in the States could be authentic Reggiano.
That being said, it is far more likely to be an imitation.
Finally, authentic Parmigiano Reggiano from Italy will have “Parmigiano-Reggiano” stenciled into the rind.
So, if you don’t see this, you know that you have an imitation that has been produced in another country.
I think it’s important to note that “imitation Parmesan” can still actually taste fantastic, and it will pretty much do the same job as Parmigiano Reggiano.
However, I’m sure all Italian cheese makers would completely disagree with me.
You Are Using the Wrong Parmesan Cheese
So, I hope you understand that authentic Parmigiano Reggiano is only produced in a specific region in Italy.
Therefore, all other versions of Parmesan cheese are nothing more than imitations.
That being said, this doesn’t mean that an imitation Parmesan can’t also taste great.
However, for Parmesan cheese to be viewed as an authentic Reggiano, it must be produced in Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, and also partly in Bologna and Mantua.
Furthermore, authentic Parmesan Reggiano will have “Parmigiano-Reggiano” stenciled into the rind.
On a similar subject, find out why Italian Provolone cheese is so costly.
How do you deal with the practicalities of availability and cost in your own culinary choices?
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