Grocery Great: Grana Padano and Parmigiano-Reggiano

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In this week’s Grocery Great segment, guest writer ForXx explores the difference between Grana Padano and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses.

Rich, pungent, firm cheese would be the best way to describe Grana. Many people think that the massive wheels of Grana Padano, the semi-aged hard Italian cheese, are maybe a cheaper knock-off of better-known Parmigiana-Reggiano. While Grana is a great cheese in its own right and well-known in Italy, Grana Padano is a subtler, less nutty and salty cheese yet more delicate. It goes well with risotto or when you don’t want to overpower a dish.

Grana Padano and Parmigiano-Reggiano are both northern Italian cheeses originally made by monks. In Italian, Grana means “grain” and actually looks like it has specks of grain in it, so Parmigiano-Reggiano is actually a type of grana.

The flavor differences stem from two big differences between the two: Grana Padano is made only with partially skimmed milk, while Parmigiano is made from a mix of whole and skimmed milk. While they’re made in the same basic part of Italy, they’re also made in different regions from cows that graze on different pastures – meaning the milk tastes a little different (and also changes slightly in flavor) throughout the year.

Grana Padano can be made in five regions north of the Po River in a northern Italy – Padana basically means the Po River valley – while Parmigiano-Reggiano can only come from the cities of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna and Mantua. Because the areas producing Grana Padano are bigger, it’s cheaper than Parmigiano-Reggiano. Both are molto bene. Buon appetito!

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