Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano? What are the differences between Italy's most famous cheese wheels?
In English the word Parmesan refers to both these Italian cheeses, even if according to the EU regulations it should be used only for Parmigiano Reggiano.
Moreover, many cheese producers outiside Europe advertise their product as Parmesan even if it is not.
Let's try to clear things up.
Firs to fall, both Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano are PDO certified products, even if they have different characteristics:
- Production area
The production area for Parmigiano Reggiano is limited to the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia and Modena, and part of the provinces of Mantua (to the right of the River Po), and Bologna, to the left of the River Reno. Grana Padano, on the contrary, is produced in a larger area: Lombardy, Veneto, Piedmont, Trentino Alto Adige, and the province of Piacenza in Emilia Romagna.
The milk used for the production of Parmigiano Reggiano comes from two different milkings per day, production only once a day. Half of the milk is whole, while the second half is skimmed. For Grana Padano milking takes place once a day and processing takes place twice a day.
- Use of additives
While Parmigiano Reggiano is produced without any additives even if of natural origins, Grana Padano uses Lysozyme (produced from eggs) to inhibit anomalous fermentation. At the Parmigiano Reggiano dairies use natural fermented whey exclusively as a bacterial starter to boost the microbiological process, while for Grana Padano also laboratory-selected bacterial starters are permitted.
- Cow feeding
For Grana Padano the feeding of the cows includes the use of corn silage, while for Parmigiano Reggiano, the forage is exclusively hay and grass and the use of silage and fermented feeds is proibithed.
- Branding & Maturation
Parmigiano Reggiano is branded after 12 months and the product is aged 24 or 30 months and even more, without limits. On the contrary, Grana Padano is branded after 9 months and normally aged for 9 to 16 months, only the "Riserva" version is matured for more than 20 months.
In any case, when you buy Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano or any other Italian fine food, make sure that you see the label with the PDO (Protected Designation or Origin) or IGP (Protected Geographical Indication) logo, which is a circle of 12 stars, on a red or blue background, with a stylized field in the middle. The presence of this logo on the label certifies the provenience of the product.
Curious to see the Parmesan cheese production first hand? Join one of our Bologna Food Tours
Sources: Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano consortium, Gazzetta di Parma