What's The Difference: Parmesan Vs. Parmigiano
It's not always the same thing.
ILLUSTRATOR Mixi Ignacio
If you love cheese, you might be using Parmesan cheese in your dishes already.¬†Parmesan cheese is the slightly funky, crumbly cheese that¬†can make any pasta dish instantly better.¬†
What is Parmesan cheese?¬†
Parmesan cheese is the English translation of the Italian cheese Parmigiano Reggiano.¬†It¬†basically means "from Parma"¬†and "from Reggio".¬†(Think of it as similar to¬†Manile√Īo¬†for someone or something that comes from Manila.) "Parmigiano Reggiano" is a combo of two cities: Parma and Reggio Emilia, two¬†northern cities in Italy where the cheese was first made. Together with its neighboring cities,¬†Modena and Bologna, only this region produces and packages the local¬†Parmesan aka Parmigiano Reggiano before it's distributed. The¬†cheese¬†has been made in the area since the Middles Ages.¬†
This¬†history is¬†why there is a law enforced in Europe that protects Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and name. Only cheese made from this region is legally allowed to be called "Parmigiano Reggiano".¬†¬†
While Parmigiano Reggiano may be¬†known as "Parmesan" to English-speaking people, not all Parmesan is a Parmigiano Reggiano. Confused? Here's what makes these two words mean different things:¬†
1 The cheese along with its name,¬†Parmigiano Reggiano, is protected only in Europe.¬†
Parmigiano Reggiano is a food that has a¬†Protected Designation of Origin, or PDO, which is recognized in Europe. It's basically a seal of quality¬†that honors and respects the¬†history, origin, and name of certain products. Parmigiano Reggiano is one of these products.¬†
Since the cheese¬†has this status, it is understandably expensive.¬†
The word "Parmesan" in¬†Europe is likewise protected in reference to the cheese, where "only cheeses bearing the PDO "Parmigiano Reggiano" can be sold under the denomination "Parmesan". However, this¬†is not upheld outside of Europe.¬†
Outside of Europe,¬†"Parmesan" as well as "Parmigiano Reggiano" is and can be used loosely.¬†Despite using similar¬†ingredients and the same techniques to create the cheese, if it's not made in the Italian region of its¬†origin, it legally cannot be¬†called that but in the United States, it can be. That's why many cheese products that claim to be "Parmesan" would not be considered "Parmesan" in Europe.¬†
2 Parmigiano Reggiano is only made with milk, salt, and rennet. Parmesan might contain other ingredients.¬†
According to the¬†regulations under the law that protects the cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano can only legally contain three ingredients: milk, salt, and rennet. The process of making this cheese protects it from spoiling and makes it last longer, which is the original intention of the original monks who created this cheese.¬†
The canister of the grated cheese called "Parmesan" that you¬†sprinkle over your pasta may have¬†additives and even other kinds of ingredients in the cheese to preserve the cheese among others.¬†
All this means is that while you may not be using the real Parmigiano Reggiano cheese in your pasta, Parmesan made in other countries allows you to afford and enjoy a cheese that tastes¬†similar to the¬†real thing.¬†
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