Congratulations, you’re the proud owner of a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano, one of the most iconic cheeses in the world!
If you’re not, you should be…and now you can order authentic aged Parmigiano-Reggiano directly from Italy in just a few clicks via the dedicated page on our Cantina Direct site. We’ve sourced top-quality cheese from the Parma2064 cooperative – a group of five historic family farms located in the countryside outside Fidenza, deep in Parmigiano-Reggiano country – and chosen to offer four different agings so you can compare the subtle variations in texture and flavor between wheels aged 12, 24, 30, and 36 months.
Now, what to do with this precious Italian staple, invented by Benedictine monks almost a millennium ago and produced roughly the same way with no additives and no preservatives since? All certified authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano is made using the same technique and ingredients (take a deep dive into the production, aging, and certification process in our Parma Food Tour blog post), but the final product is markedly different depending upon the age of the individual wheel.
- Younger “Primo” cheese (aged a minimum of 12 months) is lighter in color, creamier in texture, and still tastes of fresh, buttery milk and bright grass and herbs from the local forage that must be used to feed the cows.
- As the cheese ages another year and earns the name “Classico”, it becomes slightly darker and more granular. The flavor deepens and begins to take on floral or fruity notes with hints of spice and nuts.
- “Lunga Vita” Parmigiano-Reggiano, aged 30 months, has a more intense color and flavor. This crumbly cheese is unique for its stronger herbal notes with traces of toasted nuts and spices.
- Aged a full 36 months, “Extra Lunga Vita” cheese has the most striking color and grainy texture, with a complex blend of flavors from sweet hay to chestnut. This aging also has the most intense umami effect and you can sometimes pick up notes of rich beef broth and dried mushrooms.
Since Parmigiano-Reggiano evolves in its texture and flavor over time, you should try different pairings and recipes with each aging to highlight its specific characteristics. We suggest ordering a variety of different ages of cheese to compare and contrast their nuances and choose a favorite. If you’re unsure which to order, contact us for some tips and guidance!
Here are some pairing and recipe suggestions for each aging of Parmigiano-Reggiano adapted from the official Consortium website:
Primo (12 months)
The delicate, sweet taste pairs well with young, easy-going wines, bubbly, and wheat beers. Primo is a perfect finger food for the aperitivo cocktail hour, served on its own or paired with a tart citrus or sweet fig jam. It’s also perfect for shaving over fresh salads for an extra kick of flavor.
Shaved Beef, Arugula, and Pear Salad
Ingredients for four:
4 firm pears, peeled
2 cups red wine
2 T sugar
1 bunch arugula
1 bunch baby spinach
1 bunch chicory leaves
1 lb rump steak
4 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 -2 cups shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 T balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper (optional)
- Simmer whole pears in a saucepan with the wine and sugar until tender, turning occasionally. Carefully remove cooked pears from the reduced liquid and leave to cool.
- Wash and tear greens, arranging them in equal portions on four serving plates.
- Preheat a cast iron skillet. Brush the rump steak with one tablespoon of the olive oil, then sear it on high heat for two or three minutes on each side. Remove from the pan, cover with foil, and let rest for five minutes.
- Core and cut the pears into quarters, arrange one on each plate of greens. Thinly slice the beef and arrange equal portions on each plate of greens. Add the shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano and drizzle with the remaining olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Serve with freshly ground black pepper, if desired.
Classico (24 Months)
Perhaps the most versatile of all the agings, Classico has a balanced flavor that is perfect for medium-bodied red wines and sparkling Lambrusco, as well as IPAs. This is the most common aging to use grated over pasta and small chunks make for a satisfying, calcium-rich snack for adults and children.
Ingredients for four/six:
2 large eggplants (around 1.5 lbs)
24 oz tomato purée
1 white onion
Small bunch of basil
8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup oil for frying
Salt and pepper
- Thinly slice the eggplant 1/4 inch thick and place slices in a colander. Sprinkle them lightly with salt and set them aside for 1 hour to drain any excess water.
- Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce: finely chop the onion and sauté it in olive oil until softened and translucent (not browned). Add the tomato purée and basil torn into small pieces. Stir in salt to taste and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes. Set aside.
- Rinse the eggplant slices under cold water and pat them dry with paper towels. Lightly dredge them in flour, shake off any excess, and quickly fry them in oil for a few seconds each side. Drain on paper towels.
- Preheat the oven to 350° F.
- Spoon a small amount of tomato sauce into the bottom of a 10×8 inch baking dish and spread it around until it covers the entire bottom of the dish.
- Add a layer of eggplant, sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano and mozzarella, and enough tomato sauce to cover. Continue with these next layers, ending with a layer of tomato sauce.
- Top with a sprinkling of Parmigiano-Reggiano and mozzarella. Cover loosely with foil and bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 20 minutes until the top cheese layer is golden and bubbling. Let rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.
Lunga Vita (30 Months)
At 30 months, Lunga Vita has a more intense flavor and granular texture than younger cheeses, and its notes of creamy butter, herbs, and toasted nuts and spices are an ideal foil for dried fruit, organic floral honeys, and rich fig, onion, or pear jams or chutneys. It holds its own against full-bodied red wines and hop-forward beers like Double IPA.
Parmigiano-Reggiano Ravioli in Broth
Ingredients for four:
For the pasta:
1 1/4 cups white flour
1 large egg plus 2 yolks
1 t extra-virgin olive oil
2 T cold water
For the filling:
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
1/8 t cornstarch
For the broth:
2 1/2 cups quality chicken stock
Chopped fresh chives
- Make the pasta dough: place the flour, salt, egg and yolks, and oil in a food processor and begin to mix on low speed. Once the ingredients are evenly combined, add the water a little at a time until the dough begins to form a ball. Remove the dough and knead gently for a few seconds to form a smooth ball (knead in a little extra flour if the dough is too sticky). Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
- Make the filling: heat the cream in a small saucepan, stirring regularly. Meanwhile, combine the Parmigiano-Reggiano, cornstarch, and salt in a small bowl. Stir into the warm cream over low heat, letting the cheese melt and thicken until it coats the spoon. Pour the mixture into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and leave to set in the fridge for at least an hour.
- To make the ravioli: divide the pasta dough in half and shape it into a rectangle slightly narrower than the rollers of your pasta machine. Begin rolling the pasta through the machine, starting at the widest setting and gradually decreasing until the pasta is almost translucent. Remember to dust the pasta and machine with flour to avoid sticking.
- Gently lay your rolled pasta sheet over a floured work surface. Quickly roll 5 teaspoon-sized portions of the set parmesan filling into small balls in your hands and place them evenly about 2 inches apart along the bottom half of the sheet of pasta. Lightly press the balls with your thumb to flatten them into discs. Wet your index finger with some cold water and run it around each of the balls of filling before folding the top half of the pasta sheet over until it is even along the bottom edge. Use your fingers to press the top layer of pasta onto the bottom layer, working out any air pockets before sealing each raviolo and cutting it out with a circular cutter or a small knife. Cover sealed ravioli and set them aside; continue with the remaining pasta and filling mixture.
- To serve: bring the stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan, adjusting salt if required. Carefully drop the raviolis into the simmering broth and cook for 3 minutes, gently swirling the pan occasionally to ensure the raviolis cook evenly. Once cooked, divide raviolis and stock into four serving bowls. Garnish with grated Parmigiano Reggiano and fresh chives.
Extra Lunga Vita (36 Months)
The three-year aging gives Extra Lunga Vita the most complex and intense flavor and a decidedly grainy texture. Like Lunga Vita, this Parmigiano-Reggiano is perfect with full-bodied red wines and Double IPA beers with strong hop notes than younger cheeses, and its notes of creamy butter, herbs, and toasted nuts and spices are an ideal foil for dried fruit, organic floral honeys, and rich fig, onion, or pear jams or chutneys.
Parmigiano-Reggiano Freezer Gelato
- Combine the cream and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and add the grated Parmigiano Reggiano, stirring until it melts. Allow to cool then pour into a plastic freezer-safe container. Cover and freeze overnight.
- Scrape out layer by layer to divide into four dessert dishes. Serve with chopped strawberries, a grinding of black pepper, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.