The Two ”Parmesan”

Parmigiano Reggiano & Grana Padano

Do you know what are the differences between Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano?

At first sight they might look like similar cheeses, but it is not the case.

The two generate some confusion, although Grana Padano PDO is more popular and exports more than Parmigiano Reggiano PDO. But usually everything goes under the famous Italian-sounding term “Parmesan.”

Before looking at the differences, let’s see how Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano are similar.

They are, in fact, two long-aged and hard cheeses: in both cases, 70% of the product is made up of dry matter. Furthermore, during processing, most of the necessary milk is lost: the result is a concentrated cheese rich in nutrients such as proteins, vitamins of group A and B, minerals, phosphorus and potassium.

The two contenders are also similar in the shortcoming: in fact, both Grana and Parmesan contain a significant dose of cholesterol, about 83 mg each 100 grams of cheese, so in a day we shouldn’t eat more than 20 grams to ensure the correct nutritional intake.

The differences

The production area and the feeding of the cows of Grana [Padano] cheese ranges in many regions of Northern Italy, concentrating mainly in Lombardy, Piedmont, Trentino, Emilia Romagna and Veneto.

As the name suggests, however, Parmigiano Reggiano is produced only in Emilia Romagna and, in particular, in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna and Mantua.

The link with the land production, in this case, is fundamental: so much so that the producers have requested to nominate the Parmigiano Reggiano for UNESCO protection.

A recognition that was added to the Protected Designation of Origin, also attributed by the European Union to Grana Padano.

Another difference is about nutrition. In fact, if the cows that will produce the milk necessary to bring the Grana Padano to the table can feed on what the farmer prefers, their Parmesan “colleagues”, on the other hand, can eat only and exclusively grass grown in the cheese production area.


Processing, Preparation and Conservation

The processing of Grana is allowed twice a day, with the milk coming from the morning and evening milking of the same day and both milks used are subjected to skimming by natural surfacing of the cream.

With the Parmesan, on the other hand, the milk from the evening milking rests until the morning when it is integrated with the whole milk from the morning milking. The main consequence is that the percentage of fat in milk varies slightly: 2.8% for Parmesan and 2.6% for Grana.

Finally, the rules regarding the use of preservatives are very strict: there cannot be any type of preservative in Parmigiano Reggiano.

Grana is not subject to the same diktat, however the producers emphasize that only the use of lysozyme, a natural protein extracted from egg, is allowed.

In the kitchen

The differences between Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano do not end there: in fact the first is ready after a maturation of 9 months, while for the second it is necessary to wait at least 12. This difference flows into the taste which, according to the experts, is significantly different.

Grana Padano

The Grana, in fact, is softer and sweeter, while the Parmesan is more savory and full-bodied.

I prefer Grana to eat with fresh fruits, walnuts, honey, or pear/fig jam. Preferably, with a soft wine, fresh in acidity, slightly tannic, with slight fruity aromas.


Parmigiano Reggiano

Parmigiano is best served with a cool glass of dry white wine.

The best match for first courses is Parmigiano Reggiano aged 24 months: after 22 months of seasoning the aromas are accentuated. Its sweet and savory taste makes it perfect in soups and “creams.” both grated and in flakes. Fantastic grated on pasta, over tortellini, and fettuccine.

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I lived the most part of my life in Washington DC, now in Italy getting to know again my country. Plenty of surprises, for good and bad, and lots of nostalgia for DC.

3 thoughts on “The Two ”Parmesan”

  1. That was interesting! Coming from a place that isn’t into cheese, I was pleasantly surprised to see the variety of cheese while I was in Europe. It is really amazing how so many different factors affect the cheese. Thanks for this informative post!


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