Difference Between Parmesan Cheese And Parmigiano Reggiano

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parmigiano reggiano vs parmesan cheese

Many people think that Parmigiano Reggiano is just a fancy name for a Parmesan cheese.  However, Parmesan cheese and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese are not the same.

So, what is the difference between Parmesan Cheese and Parmigiano Reggiano?  The difference between these cheeses is that Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is the real deal, and Parmesan cheese is an imitation of the real Parmigiano Reggiano.

According to the trademark laws in Italy, the cheese cannot be called “Parmigiano Reggiano” unless it’s made in Italy according to a specific recipe.   Parmigiano Reggiano is always made in Italy, while the Parmesan cheese can be made anywhere else – there are no restrictions on the name “Parmesan”.  Parmesan cheese is produced to try to duplicate the flavor of “Parmigiano Reggiano”.

If the cheese is labeled “Parmesan”, it is the imitation version of “Parmigiano Reggiano” and usually has inferior taste.  The powdered Parmesan sold in the large spice jars give the Parmesan cheese a bad name :) If you taste the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and Parmesan cheese side by side, you’ll most definitely notice the difference.

Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is always more expensive than Parmesan cheese.  The money used to buy the real thing is the money well spent – Parmigiano Reggiano will really enhance the food that you sprinkle it on.  Once you taste the real Parmigiano Reggiano, you’ll never want to go back to the plain Parmesan.

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  1. Last fall we visited a Parmigiano Reggiano factory near Parma,Italy and discovered the reason for the difference in the cheeses. It is all due to how the cows are fed. Cows that supply the milk for Parmigiano cheese cannot be fed from grain stored in silos. The natural feed has to be fresh and stored in open feed trays. The cows cannot be given any antibiotics also. Therein lies the difference. Grana Padano which is often promoted as an acceptable alternative is made from the milk of cows fed on silo stored grains and therefore has a different flavor. In addition, no cheese can be exported which is aged less than 24 months and the most expensive cheese is aged 36 months. Any cheese sold in this country which is aged 12 months is not the real deal from Italy and I doubt the the cows have been fed in the same way. The factory told us recently that one of their suppliers of milk was removed as a supplier because they discovered that their cows had ben fed antibiotics. The difference in flavor was detected by the inspector and thereby the farmer was caught and removed as a supplier. All of these regulations are adhered to by the members of the consortium. Any cheese not passed by the inspector and given the stamp of approval cannot be exported and is sold to the locals only. There is a lot behind the authentic product which accounts for the excellent flavor and consistency of quality. Nobody seems to be aware of the reasons for the difference between the garbage that is sold in this country and the authentic cheese that is made in Italy.

  2. When I tasted real Parmigiano-Reggiano for the first time, I immediately went out and bought a block. When a friend who was with me said, “Whoa, that stuff costs 5 times as much as the parmesan right next to it. Do you REALLY think it tastes 5 times as good?” My response was, “And then some.” There’s really NO comparison, they’re not even in the same LEAGUE. It’s like racing a Ferrari against a Prius.

  3. Very interesting article. I am Italian and am writing from Milan. I knew before our Parmigiano Reggiano is copied abroad with the “Parmesan” name and I have imagined taste is different. In Italy we have also another brand which is called “Grana Padano”, they have some differences in production processed but they taste similar. Both are registered trademarks.
    Anyway Parmesan is just one of the various “fake Italian products” abroad. More than half the food you eat in Italian restaurants outside Italy is fake. We don’t have pasta with chicken, we don’t have Alfredo sauce (we have a similar recipe instead which is still different and called “pasta col burro”) and Bolognese is made just with meat. Mozzarella is also one of the most imitated Italian products, most mozzarellas sold in the USA taste completely different than our mozzarella. These are just few examples. But imitations and variations of food happen everywhere and with every cuisine, not just with ours (as a lover of Chinese cuisine I can confirm for example their food is also completely adapted to Westwrn taste in Western countries).

  4. I love reading all of the feedback. I’m just starting to learn to cook for one, at age 68. I loved and miss the wonderful foods that I experienced in Europe. I’m frustrated that I find good recipes but, am unable to find ingredients that match my memories. I live in the Western U. S.. Any suggestions?

  5. I deduce from what you say that you are in USA. Inside the European Union, both names have geographic protection and quality control.

  6. I had this debate with my italian room mate. I then cut off a piece of american parmesan and reggiano and he couldn’t tell me which was which. People keep parroting that reggiano is unbeatable and the taste can’t be created elsewhere, but its simply not true. You can find the same quality right here in the US.

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