Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano – the lowdown on Italian hard cheeses

Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano – what’s the difference? And what does D.O.P stand for? Dr. Stefano Berni, director of the Grana Padano Protection Consortium knows everything there is to know about hard cheeses.

Hi Mr Berni! You are the director of the Grana Padano Protection Consortium so you know all about Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano. Can you explain what the difference is?

The main difference is where the cheese is made. Grana Padano is produced by cheese companies across the entire Po region. As the name suggests, Parmesan Reggiano and other Parmesan cheeses come from the Parma region and Reggio Emilia, but also from Modena, Bologna and Mantua. What’s more, Parmigiano has a seven to eight percent higher fat content than Grana Padano and matures for longer. Both cheeses have been around since the 11th century. 

And what do the letters D.O.P. stand for?

D.O.P. is an abbreviation for “Denominazione di Origine Protetta” or “Protected Designation of Origin” in English. It’s an Italian seal only selected cheeses may carry. The seal certifies that a product was grown, produced and processed in a specific geographical region in line with recognised techniques. It also guarantees a high standard of quality and full traceability. For Parmigiano Reggiano this means the cows that produce the milk can only be fed on untreated fodder such as grass, hay and alfalfa. In addition to untreated fodder, cows producing milk for Grana Padano can also be fed on silage. An official body known as a “consorzio” or “consortium” monitors each D.O.P. product.

Interesting. What else does the Grana Padano consortium do?

The Grana Padano consortium was formed by a group of manufacturers in 1954. As well as ensuring that today’s manufacturers still adhere to the traditional Grana Padano recipe, it guarantees the highest standard of quality for every single cheese wheel. The consortium also acts as a contact point for consumers and represents the interests of Grana Padano manufacturers before Italy’s Ministry for Agriculture.

Talking of manufacturers – how do you make Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano?

As Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano are similar cheeses the process is almost identical. The milk for Parmigiano Reggiano comes from a single milking, whereas milk for Grana Padano can be taken from two consecutive milkings, morning and evening for instance. Otherwise the method is the same. The milk is heated with rennet until it curdles. A special instrument that looks like a small harp with lots of wires is used to cut the firm milk mass into pieces before the young cheese is pressed into moulds. Before the cheese wheels begin their ripening process, they are submersed in a brine bath for up to three weeks. This helps preserve the cheese and lends it a pleasant salty flavour.
Parmigiano Reggiano is left to mature for at least twelve months, and Grana Padano for at least nine.

What dishes do Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano go best with?

Both cheeses are incredibly versatile and taste great with mains such as pasta or risotto. But they also do well on a cheese board after dinner, preferably with a glass of wine. Parmigiano Reggiano has a fairly strong taste though so opt for Grana Padano if you prefer a milder flavour.

What’s the best way to store Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano?

Pop them in a fridge between 4 and 8 degrees Celsius. You can prevent the cheese drying out by wrapping it in cling film or a damp tea towel. Cheese is like wine in the sense that it likes to breathe, so take it out of the fridge at least an hour before eating so the aroma has time to develop.

Thanks for chatting to us today, Mr. Berni! If we’ve put you in the mood for some Italian hard cheese, you can enjoy the taste of Grana Padano D.O.P. in our Insalate Cesare, Spaghetti Carbonara, Pizza Rucola, Pizza Bruschetta or Piatto Anti Pasti Grande. And as it’s lactose-free cheese, it’s the perfect choice for dairy intolerant diners. Buon appetito!