Parmigiano Reggiano or Parmesan? What’s the difference?

Collina Italiana

Parmigiano Reggiano or Parmesan? What’s the difference?

Ciao everyone! It’s Luna here, back with another Cibo edition episode of Cosa Dici?! Now, today we’re talking about cheese… Have you ever wondered why there are two names for the same cheese? Parmigiano Reggiano or Parmesan? What’s the difference?

Well, I’m here to tell you it has to do exactly with where and how the cheese is made.

Now, though many of us might not be able to tell the difference, Parmigiano Reggiano, the name and label, is strictly used for cheese that is made in specific locations in Italy like Bologna and Parma (which makes sense given the name of the cheese).

In fact, as our dear friend, Pietro Spanghero (creator of Learn Italian with Songs), has added, “It is called a DOP cheese (Di Origine Protetta) meaning that it can “originate“ only from a certain area Of Italy. But that’s not all. In order to label a cheese with that name, it has to follow strict regulations concerning how the cows are fed, the way the milk is treated after the milking and the length of the aging, which, if I remember well, cannot be less than nine months. And often it can reach 36 months, or even more!”

Parmigiano Reggiano storage and aging example.
The beautiful Parmigiano Reggiano, stored in these “wheels”.

Instead, Parmesan is a name used for cheese made here in the United States, which is more of an imitation cheese. Now, of course, along with these differences in aging process and location (and taste, of course), another difference between these two cheeses is the price.

Labels for Parmigiano Reggiano and Parmesan.
The names Parmesan and Parmigiano Reggiano are strictly used according to regulations.

Parmigiano Reggiano is, of course, going to be a little pricier than Parmesan, but in my opinion, it is definitely worth it!

There you have it, a quick background story on the beloved Italian cheese.

Until next time! Ciao!

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