Aged to Perfection: Parmigiano Reggiano's Flavor Journey

My hopeless cholesterol won't like this post.
​But Parmigiano Reggiano in Bologna is in every house, in every fridge and on the top of every serious pasta.

Some people call it the king of cheese: the truth is that in one name you find very different kinds of cheese with different uses.

But how long is parmigiano reggiano is aged?

Parmigiano Reggiano: young or old?

The first rule to know is that there isn't a right age for Parmigiano Reggiano.
Each one has its own specific properties and usage.

Do you like to have Parmigiano cubes for aperitivo?
Or ground it on a dish of passatelli or tagliatelle with ragù?
​Different ages, different use.
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is aged on wooden shelves for at least 12 months

12 months

You can't call it Parmigiano Reggiano before 12 months of aging on wooden shelves. Parmigiano Reggiano is a DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) cheese, so it has to follow very strict rules.

It's only after 12 months that each cheese is tested and fire-branded to become real Parmigiano.

​At this stage, the cheese is still soft and young, without the unique flavors and perfumes that make it famous worldwide.
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese wrapped in cloth, ready to take its typical shape

12 - 24 months

Now we're starting to talk.
After a couple of summers, Parmigiano is still quite soft but becomes more grainy and crumbly.

Also, the flavor is different, perfect to taste during aperitivo with a glass of Pignoletto or Lambrusco sparkling wines.

Alberto, my expect cheese seller in Bologna, shared with me a secret about Parmigiano.
​If you like it sweeter, ask for a mountain producer: cows eat herbs and flowers give a tender sweetness to the cheese.

24 month Parmigiano Reggiano is the perfect one for the filling of tortellini, mixed with pork loin, mortadella, egg and nutmeg.

30 - 36 months

We call it Stravecchio. Extra old, literally.
After 30 months Parmigiano Reggiano becomes dry and even more crumbly with an intense flavor.
At this stage, milk enzymes digest casein, making it suitable also for lactose intolerant and babies.

​How to have it?
​Take is simple, maybe with honey or Aceto balsamico tradizionale di Modena to balance his sapid aroma.

Anything more?

Yes, we can go further.
60, 72 even 90 months aged.

It's difficult and rare to find these kinds of cheese. They must have perfect shape and aging, but the reward is a wide essence and a unique deep flavor.
​Try it alone and balance its hardness with a sweet wine like Marsala or Passito.

During our food tour in Modena and Parma Food Tour, we taste different aged Parmigiano Reggiano.
​Are you the lucky one who finds the 90 months?

[Photos: Centotre Contini, Claudio Manenti, Wonsun, Cristian]

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