Chunk of parmesan cheese with cheese knife
What's The Difference Between American And Italian Parmesan?
Italian and American Parmesan cheese are similar enough to be interchanged, but upon closer inspection, the two differ in quality, cost, tasting notes, and texture.
Both have a hard, crumbly texture, but American parmesan varies from brand to brand. Italian parmesan is consistent with a complex, sharp taste and gritty, crunchy texture.
True Italian parmesan is called Parmigiano-Reggiano, after the city of Parma in the Emilian-Romagna region, where cheesemaking dates back centuries when monks first made parmesan.
Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano is a highly regulated food that must be made in certain regions, must be aged at least 12 months, and can only consist of rennet, salt, and raw milk.
This aging process produces crunchy crystals within the cheese and draws water from it, producing a concentrated nutty, fruity, or even beefy flavor.
By contrast, American parmesan is far less regulated but must be made of cow's milk, have a hard, brittle texture, and be aged for at least 10 months.
American parmesan varies from brands like Grande, which follows traditional Italian production, to other versions made with additives, bleached milk, or artificial coloring.
American parmesan has a straightforward, salty flavor because the milk it's made from is pasteurized, a process that kills many bacteria that give dairy flavor.
As such, American parmesan is perfect for dishes where cheese isn't the star of the show. If you want your cheese to truly stand out, Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano is the way to go.