The main reason I moved to the UK was to learn English. I could not get a decent job in Italy without a good grasp of the English language. So I left to work as an au pair (then love fatally took hold of me and these days I am still living in the UK!).
I was very curious of what British people ate as I had really no idea apart from what I learned in school books: roast beef, pronounced “rosbif” in Italian (a completely different thing though!), apple pie and macaroni cheese. So I knew nothing basically.
I loved being nosy and looking inside the cupboards to find really strange and curious things. Like spaghetti in a tin which I never knew existed or that little treasure-like box with “Parmesan cheese” written over it. It tasted like some old grated stale bread which had nothing to do with cheese. And the most interesting thing was it didn’t even need to live in the fridge!
That was over 15 years ago. These days you will find proper Parmesan in many shops and supermarkets and actually you can find almost everything you can possibly want!
There are two types of hard, mature cheeses with a granular-crystalline texture: Parmesan and Grana Padano which are similar cheeses and they are made in a typical form of large drums which are divided by being split with a fairly blunt triangular knife designed for the purpose, rather than being sliced or cut.
Grana Padano has been produced in the same way since 1135 and to produce 1 Kg of cheese you will need 15 Liters of fresh milk. This means that a 30 g portion will have the nutrients of 500 ml of milk. Both Grana and Parmigiano have double the calcium content to any ordinary cheese. My pediatrician use to recommend them to my children for this reason.
The main difference between the two is that cows producing Parmigiano-Reggiano eat only grass and cereals and no silage, no preservatives and no antibiotics. Cows that have been treated with antibiotics are suspended from production of Parmesan. Silage, fed to cows for Grana production, is a fermented forage that requires the addition of a natural preservative ( called lysozyme).
This is the main reason why I prefer Parmesan, apart from a slight difference in taste.
Parmesan is a very rich cheese you will normally use for grating over pasta dishes and soups. A good sprinkle of Parmesan will enhance and bring out the flavour of your pasta dish.
You can also add it when making lasagne, savoury tarts, souffles and in most soups. I use the crust like a stock cube and I add it when preparing soups. This is an old fashion way to add extra flavour, my mum always used to do it.
Pieces of Parmesan or Grana are also being served with aperitifs to buffets and parties. They go perfectly with sparkling wine or Prosecco!
I leave you to watch this interesting video about a Parmesan cheese producer.