Parmigiano-Reggiano is a hard, fat granular cheese, cooked but not pressed, named after the producing areas of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna, in Emilia-Romagna, and Mantova, in Lombardy, Italy.
Parmigiano is simply the Italian adjective for Parma; the French version, Parmesan, is used in English. The term Parmesan is also loosely used as a common term for cheeses imitating true Parmesan cheese, especially outside Europe; within Europe, the Parmesan name is classified as a protected designation of origin.
Parmigiano-Reggiano is made from raw cows' milk. The only additive allowed is salt, which the cheese absorbs while being submerged for 20 days in brine tanks saturated to near total salinity with Mediterranean sea salt. The product is aged an average of two years. True Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese has a sharp, complex fruity/nutty taste and a slightly gritty texture.
Uses of the cheese include being grated with a cheese grater over pasta, stirred into soup and risotto, and eaten in chunks with balsamic vinegar. It is also a key ingredient in alfredo sauce and pesto.
Parmigiano crusts should never be discarded because they have their culinary uses. Added to a pot of soup or when cooking plain white rice, they can lend a pleasant, fine aroma to it, and they can also be chewed and eaten.
Samuel Pepys is reputed to have buried his Parmigiano during the Great Fire of London of 1666 to preserve it.
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