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. Here, Cathy tells us all about the Parmigiano Reggiano in our stores — and our can’t-miss annual event.
Parmigiano Reggiano (aka the King of Cheese) is our #1 selling cheese at Whole Foods Market. It’s the real deal — and we mean it. Each year, we hand-select the wheels from Italy and hand-crack them in our stores. Why? So that you can bring home the freshest, best-tasting wedge you’ve ever had.
If you’re not acquainted with this extraordinary cheese, you need to be. Learn all about Parmigiano Reggiano below, then check out our annual event. On February 22 at 3 pm local time, we’re hand-cracking wheels and handing out free samples in every Whole Foods Market store. We're also having a sale - save 30% off Parmigiano Reggiano February 21 – 23.*
What is Parmigiano Reggiano?
Parmigiano Reggiano is an Italian hard cheese made with raw cow’s milk. It’s also 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 northern Italy 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:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
What to do with Parmigiano Reggiano
Once you’ve secured your wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano, how are going to enjoy it? My personal favorite: Cut a wedge into smaller pieces and serve on a cheese plate with prosciutto, olives, dried fruit or fig jam. Or give these easy ideas and comfort-forward recipes a try.
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.
Try it in: Parmigiano Reggiano Crisps
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
Save the rind for soups and sauces: When you get down to the end of your wedge, toss the rind into simmering soup, stew or pasta sauce to infuse extra savory flavor.
Sprinkle over pizza: Take your pizza to the next level with a generous sprinkle of grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Try as a garnish just before serving.
How to Stock Up: Look for Parmigiano Reggiano in our Cheese department. Need pairing advice? Look for a Certified Cheese Professional or expert cheesemonger. Their expertise can guide you to perfect accoutrements to serve with your cheese.
*Valid 2/21 – 2/23/19. Final sale prices marked. Quantity limits apply. Quantities limited. No rain checks except where required by law. Select U.S. stores only. Not valid at Whole Foods Market 365 stores. Check the Whole Foods Market app and your store for availability.