Decoding Parmigiano Reggiano and Parmesan Cheese

Decoding Parmigiano Reggiano and Parmesan Cheese: Your Ultimate Buying Guide!

Have you ever caught yourself wondering whether splurging on Parmigiano Reggiano is truly worth it? Or perhaps you’ve thought about opting for a less expensive alternative? Join me as we delve into the art of decoding Parmigiano Reggiano, let’s find out why this cheese is, a hallmark of Italian cuisine and a staple in kitchens of gourmet chefs around the globe.

A Cheese Lover’s Dilemma:

Walking through the cheese section of your local supermarket can be overwhelming. With countless options ranging from budget-friendly picks to premium selections, choosing the right cheese can be a real challenge. Yet, for those in the know, picking the perfect Parmigiano should be a breeze, especially if you’ve been following me for long enough!

Check out my video on YouTube or continue reading this article. I have shared my experience and hope it will help you spend money on the right cheese.

Sampling four Parmesan Cheeses and the OG, Parmigiano Reggiano

Today’s lineup for tasting includes a mix of true and imitation cheeses:

  • Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Grana Padano
  • Traditional Parmesan Cheese
  • Shredded Parmesan Cheese Extra Strong
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese

What I love about filming this ‘Decoding Parmigiano Reggiano’ video is the moment I open the cheese package — my kitchen instantly fills with the aroma of cheese! As each piece is unwrapped, my kitchen transforms into a cheese monger’s paradise. The earthy and creamy scents blend beautifully, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere.

This ultimate cheese test doesn’t stop with just Parmigiano Reggiano. Although it’s not part of today’s official taste test, I can’t help but give a shout-out to Pecorino Romano, another favorite of mine, which is robust and mature, aged perfectly for over 16 months. If you spot this cheese in your supermarket, don’t hesitate—grab it!

Five cheeses in their original packaging laid out on a surface, ready for the Decoding Parmigiano Reggiano test

Let the Decoding Parmigiano Reggiano adventure begin!

1) Grated Parmesan Cheese by Kraft

This one’s a bit of a letdown. It contains an anticaking agent, which isn’t great for your health. The cheese itself is finely grated—ideal for dishes like Cacio e Pepe or Carbonara—but sadly, it falls flat on flavor. It’s mild, slightly floury, and lacks the authentic texture you’d expect from real cheese. Honestly, it feels more like eating powdered cardboard than cheese.

My verdict? A disappointing 1/10.

2) Shredded Parmesan Cheese Extra Strong

This type of cheese doesn’t blend well with pasta; instead of achieving that smooth, creamy texture we all love, it tends to clump together, creating a gritty, lumpy, mess. It might fare better as a topping for pizzas, where its ability to melt nicely can be more appreciated, but for pasta dishes, it’s best to steer clear.

Taste-wise, this cheese does offer a slightly more “cheese-like” flavor compared to the Kraft version, however, its quality is lowered by the addition of an anticaking agent and unknown preservatives, which harm both our health and the cheese’s natural taste.

Due to these drawbacks, I must give it a low rating of 2/10

3) Traditional Parmesan Cheese by Perfect Italiano

Next in our journey of decoding Parmigiano Reggiano leads us to Perfect Italiano’s version. Is this ‘traditional’ cheese a worthy alternative?

This product claims to be a traditional “parmesan” cheese but it is not made in Italy. It’s young, mild, and frankly, not what you’d expect when you crave real Parmesan.

While it’s a step up from the first two in terms of flavor, it’s still not quite right, earning a 3/10 from me.

4) Grana Padano

Now we’re talking! Aged for 16 months and made in several regions across Italy, Grana Padano offers a more affordable yet delicious alternative to Parmigiano Reggiano.

Its creamy, semi-dried texture and subtly pleasing taste earn it a well-deserved 7.5/10.

5) Parmigiano Reggiano

Parmigiano Reggiano isn’t just any cheese; it’s an experience in every bite. Making this cheese is serious business, steeped in tradition and meticulous care. To even call a cheese Parmigiano Reggiano, it has to meet certain criteria. This attention to detail means you really know where the cheese comes from and that it’s top quality. Each wheel is aged at least 12 months, and some for as long as 84 months. The aging brings out rich, complex flavors that make this cheese truly special.

The Parmigiano Reggiano I tried has been aged for 30 months, and let me tell you, it’s a flavor-packed journey! Paired with honey, it’s absolutely heavenly. The combination of sweet and savory is just perfect.

It’s an easy 9/10, no question.

But, Are These Cheeses Worth Their Price?

Continuing our journey of decoding Parmigiano Reggiano and its comparisons, let’s break down the costs and see which cheeses offer real value for your money.

Both the grated and shredded Parmesan from Kraft are priced at $5.50 AUD or $3.57 USD for a small 125g/4.41oz pack. However, I don’t recommend using the shredded type for pasta dishes because it doesn’t melt properly.

If you’re looking for something that feels more like real cheese, the block of Parmesan that looks a bit like cheddar is a better choice. It costs slightly more at $7.50 AUD ($4.87 USD) for 200g/7.05oz, but it’s free from anticaking agents and feels more authentic.

For a real treat, consider Grana Padano, which is a genuine, aged Italian cheese. It costs $10 AUD ($6.49 USD) for a 200g/7.05oz block, which is a great price for the quality you get. If you want to go for the top shelf, Parmigiano Reggiano is the best you can buy. A 200g/7.05oz block aged for 30 months costs $14.50 AUD ($9.41 USD), and a younger 12-month-old block is about $11. These are more expensive than Kraft, but the taste and quality are far superior.

In summary, while Kraft’s cheese might seem economical at $10 for a 250g/8.82oz pack, however, it doesn’t compare in quality to Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano. So, if you’re after something special, it’s worth paying a bit more for real Italian cheese.

Putting Cheeses to the Ultimate Pasta Meltdown Test

As we continue our parmesan cheese taste test, what better way to test these cheeses than with a classic pasta dish? I grated and tested each one with simple pasta to see how they melt and blend. First up in the melting showdown was Kraft’s grated cheese. It looked promising but tasted pretty bland—not nearly creamy enough for my liking, especially considering it costs as much as the superior Grana Padano. Definitely not my first pick!

Next, I tackled the shredded cheese, but sadly, it didn’t melt at all. Instead of creamy, it stayed grainy, turning what could have been a smooth sauce into a lumpy disappointment. Not exactly what you want from a cheese, right?

Then came the cheddar, labeled as Parmesan. It melted better and got somewhat creamy, but still had some lumps. The flavor was improved, but still not what I’d want for a perfect pasta dish. It might work better on a pizza or mixed with some honey or jam for a snack, but for pasta, it’s a hard no from me.

Grana Padano was up next and it didn’t disappoint. It melted beautifully, blending smoothly into the pasta without any clumps, delivering that authentic cheese flavor I was craving. And for just $2.50 more than the “fake” Parmesan, it’s absolutely worth it for pasta lovers.

Finally, Parmigiano Reggiano. Even though my pasta wasn’t piping hot, this cheese melted like a dream, creating a perfect, lump-free cream. The flavors were rich and deep—this is what you pay for when you choose quality over quantity.

The decoding process reveals that while many cheeses can dress up as Parmesan, only a few like Parmigiano Reggiano truly live up to the gourmet standard.

Final thoughts: Why premium cheese matters

Decoding Parmigiano Reggiano and other high-quality food products is crucial, especially given how expensive the cost of living has become these days! With Parmigiano Reggiano, you’re investing in quality that transforms a simple dish into a gourmet experience.

Remember, good food is worth the extra effort. For me, that’s the secret behind ‘I’ll Make You a Pasta You Can’t Refuse!‘ – quality ingredients every time. I hope this insight changes the way you consider which cheese to consume with your pasta, ensuring every meal is not just food, but an experience.

Join my private exclusive Italian Tours “Italy Unexplored Tour” and experience the Real Italy like you have never seen before.

The tour is exclusive to only 10 passionate foodies and it’s very unique. (Click here to get more details)

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2 Responses to Decoding Parmigiano Reggiano and Parmesan Cheese

  1. Mmary April 27, 2024 at 11:18 PM #

    The main video says “private”. Would you please fix that? Grazie (in anticipio!)

    • Vincenzo's Plate April 30, 2024 at 9:04 AM #

      Ciao Mary! I’ve checked the video settings, and it appears to be public. Could you please try accessing it again? Sometimes a quick refresh or checking from a different browser/device can help. Grazie!

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