Did you know that Parmigiano Reggiano is the only cheese that can legally be called Parmesan? Melan Magazine found this out on a Parmesan cheese tasting night like no other.
On a warm summer day in July, we honoured an invitation to dine with the only quality parmesan gurus in town. Parmesan is a cheese often confined to Italian cuisine. It’s the cheese you find in your Chicken Caesar salad, or on top of the pasta dish you shamelessly ask the waiter to grate away on.
So, when the Parmigiano Reggiano team invited us for a night of cheese-tasting and a parmesan inspired menu in Dalston, we thought we’d be eating classic Italian dishes with a subtle twist. Were we wrong.
Instead, we were invited to the Angelina Restaurant in the heart of Dalston known for their unique aromas and flavours of Japanese and Italian cooking, but of course this time, featuring plenty of Parmigiano Reggiano.
We wholeheartedly tucked into a 10-dish menu curated by the Angelina team. It was the kind of menu that elicited excitement and warranted boldness due to the unique blend of flavours. We were appreciative of the incredibly thoughtful and carefully crafted menu. It was an audacious menu which broke some of the rules – and it succeeded. Some of our highlight dishes on the night were:
- Sourdough Focaccia, Sardines, Red Kosho & 18-month aged Parmigiano Reggiano butter.
- Hokkaido Milk Bun, Aubergine, Mortadella, Pistachios & 36-month aged Parmigiano Reggiano Fonduta.
- Lamb, Anchovy, Carrot, Bagna Cauda & 24-month aged Parmigiano Reggiano.
- Caramelle, Truffle, Furikake & 96-month aged Parmigiano Reggiano.
We also were in awe of the beautiful wines paired with our meals, with our highlight being the Barolo La Foia (2016) and the Lambrusco Grasarossa red sparkling wine.
Even though, we couldn’t bring you a takeaway plate from the night, we wanted to leave you with some fun facts about the cheese which we learnt from our cheese-tasting session.
Fun facts about Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Parmesan is one of the most counterfeited and imitated cheeses in the world.
Parmigiano Reggiano is the only cheese that can be legally called “Parmesan”. Other Italian hard cheeses may be mistaken for Parmesan due to their shape, but as they are not produced under the exact conditions and area of origin, they cannot be called Parmesan under EU and UK law.
Much like Champagne, Parmigiano Reggiano is a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product and is one of the oldest, richest cheeses in the world. Made in a small area of northern Italy – including the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, and parts of Mantua and Bologna – it has undergone very little change to the production process and is essentially still produced the same way it was nearly 1,000 years ago.
Parmigiano Reggiano is naturally free of lactose.
Parmigiano Reggiano is made with only three ingredients – milk, salt, and rennet – and therefore contains no additives, only natural bacteria. For those of you who conveniently ignore your intolerance when you see cheese – this one is for you! Parmigiano Reggiano labelled cheese is easily digestible and naturally free of lactose. During the early stages of the traditional production, lactose is eliminated from the milk, guaranteeing a galactose content below 0.01%.
It takes 500 litres of milk to produce a wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
Also, the milk used for the cheese comes from approximately 3,000 farms. To create its distinctive taste, the cattle have a specific diet, and Parmesan has a minimum maturation period of one year, but it can mature for much longer, even up to 48 months.
A 21-year-old wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano was auctioned in 2021.
This made it one of the oldest edible cheeses to be auctioned in the world!
Flavours and aromas of the cheese differ depending on its maturity.
For example, 18-month aged Parmesan cheese has scents of milk and yoghurt – so it’s well suited for aperitifs or for salads or cold dishes. Whereas, a 24-month cheese has notes of fruits, nuts and meat stock and is especially ideal for pasta and filled past dishes. Finally, if you simply just want a solo wine and cheese night, 36+ month aged cheese and above can be enjoyed on its own with full-bodied red wines.
The more elastic, the less aged.
To see how mature Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is, press it between your thumb and index finger. if it’s crumbly and grainy, then it is more mature.
For more information about Parmigiano Reggiano, visit their website.