Kitchen Tips

The One Cheese To Have On Hand During The Holiday Season

This cheese is a classic for a reason.

Parmigiano-Reggiano is the king of cheeses. And that’s likely because a single wheel of it is worth hundreds of dollars. They’re so valuable that the aging room at a Parmigiano-Reggiano factory is referred to as the cheese bank. (I literally gasped at the sight of a seemingly endless row of warehouse shelves piled high with cheese when I walked into a storage facility in Italy.)

I also gained a new appreciation for this ubiquitous cheese—especially after learning that it takes about 550 litres of locally sourced cow’s milk to make a wheel—and that much of the weeks-long cheese-making process is done by hand. So why not treat your guests to royalty this holiday season?

What should I use Parmigiano-Reggiano for?

It’s so versatile! Of course, you can grate it over pasta, but this cheese is also a crowd-pleaser on a cheese board, says the Cheese Boutique’s cheese master Afrim Pristine. The Toronto-based expert suggests pairing it with red wine or even Champagne, making it ideal for holiday entertaining. He also recommends eating with a drip or two of aged balsamic vinegar for a flavour explosion. Because it’s so hard, this is one cheese you should eat sans cracker. Just cut off a piece and pop it into your mouth (with our without balsamic) for maximum enjoyment.

Wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano

Parmigiano-Reggiano as far as the eye can see. Photo, Amy Grief.

Where do I buy Parmigiano-Reggiano?

Parm is super easy to find. While there are shelf-stable tins of pre-grated Parmesan in the grocery store pasta aisle, skip right by them (although, there’s a time and place for those salt-and-cellulose-filled cans). Instead, head to your supermarket’s cheese section and look for wedges of the good stuff: Parmigiano-Reggiano. It should have a DOP, or Protected Designation of Origin, label—bona fide Parmigiano-Reggiano can only be produced in certain parts of Italy: the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena and parts of Bologna and Mantua. For special occasions, like the holidays, buy extra-aged varieties, such as cheese that’s been aged for 36 months. These varieties have a richer and nuttier flavour.

How do I store Parmigiano-Reggiano?

As with all cheeses, Pristine recommends buying only what you need. However, if you do have leftovers, wrap it in a layer of parchment followed by a layer of tinfoil. And be sure to hold onto that parmesan rind! You can store it in the freezer and then use it to add a deep flavour the next time you whip up a hearty soup recipe.

How to make a cheeseball

Trip to Italy provided by Barilla Canada.

Originally published November 2018; Updated October 2019.

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