Meet our award-winning Global Cheese Buyer, Cathy Strange.
Cathy Strange is the award-winning cheese buyer for Whole Foods Market. Her cheese expertise (and palate!) is sought after all over the world — for judging national and international cheese competitions, advising artisanal and regional cheesemakers, and encouraging the love of cheese wherever she goes. Here, Cathy tells us all about Parmigiano Reggiano.
Parmigiano Reggiano — aka the King of Cheese — is our #1 selling cheese. If you open my refrigerator, you’ll almost always find a piece. However, great flavor is only part of the story. Authentic Parmigiano Reggiano comes from a single region of northern Italy, and it’s produced using artisanal methods that have existed for centuries.
At Whole Foods Market, the Parmigiano Reggiano that we sell is the real deal. Keep reading to learn more about it — then, visit our Cheese department stock up. We’re also having a sale: Save 30% on Parmigiano Reggiano from 10/18 through 10/20/19.*
What is Parmigiano Reggiano?
Parmigiano Reggiano is an Italian hard cheese made with raw cow’s milk. The flavor is savory, nutty, fruity and complex. But why do we call it the King of Cheese?
First off, Parmigiano Reggiano is one of Italy’s most respected cheeses. The name is a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) and it can only be made in the Po River Valley region, composed of Reggio-Emilia, Parma, Modena and portions of Bologna and Mantua.
In fact, wheels are not allowed to be sold as Parmigiano Reggiano without specific rind markings and pin dots that signify approval from the Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano Reggiano (the ruling body that governs all things Parmigiano Reggiano).
Why our Parmigiano Reggiano is special
Each year, we visit the northern Italian region and select wheels based on the flavor profile we believe is best — intense and complex, with nutty, sweet, grassy, creamy and fruity flavors. We buy from just a handful of producers that we know personally.
Here are three facts about the Parmigiano Reggiano at Whole Foods Market:
Incomparable taste from aging 24 months
That “crystal crunch” is tyrosine crystals, which only appear after at least 15 months of aging. Sweet, salty, nutty, grassy, creamy and fruity flavors are perfectly balanced at 24 months.
Hand-selected to be in the top 1%
We’ve partnered with five small producers for more than 20 years to get the best-tasting wheels made from flavorful milk. The wheels we choose are in the top 1% of all Parmigiano Reggiano graded for quality.
Hand-cracked in-house for freshest flavor
When we hand-crack the wheels in our stores, it’s proof that every piece of cheese is the original. Our team members are trained to use tools that have been used for hundreds of years to crack along curd lines to get the best aromatics and flavors.
How to use Parmigiano Reggiano
One of the things I love most about Parmigiano Reggiano is its versatility. Try these easy ideas and comfort-forward recipes — they represent some of my favorite ways to use Parmigiano Reggiano.
Try on cheese plates.
Cut a wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano into smaller pieces to appreciate its true flavor. Serve on a platter with prosciutto, olives, dried fruit or fig jam and provide Aceto Balsamico di Modena or honey for dipping.
Stir into risotto.
Elevate the classic Italian dish by stirring in grated Parmigiano Reggiano instead of parmesan cheese. Just before serving, garnish with extra cheese shavings.
Try it in: Saffron Risotto with Parmigiano Reggiano
Grate and bake until crisp.
Add crunch to a Caesar salad or creamy tomato soup by baking grated Parmigiano Reggiano until golden-brown and crispy. This also intensifies the cheese’s flavor and adds a touch of caramelization.
Try it in: Parmigiano Reggiano Crisps
Sprinkle over pizza.
Take your pizza to the next level with a generous sprinkle of Parmigiano Reggiano. Try as a garnish just before serving. Or, pile it over top before your pizza hits the oven for gooey, cheesy goodness.
Save the rind for soups and sauces.
The rind of a Parmigiano Reggiano wheel, though chewy, is completely edible. So when you get down to the end, toss it into simmering soup, stew or pasta sauce to infuse extra savory flavor.
Looking for more cheese-spiration? Look for a Certified Cheese Professional or expert cheesemonger in your store. Their expertise will help guide you to the perfect cheese for your needs, as well as the perfect ingredients to pair with it.
*Valid 10/18–10/20/19. Prices as marked. Excludes grated, shredded, shaved and rinds. Some quantity limits apply. While supplies last. Quantities limited. No rain checks except where required by law.