What’s the difference between … Grana Padano and Parmigiano-Reggiano?
Italy is famous for producing exceptional cheeses and two of its most well-known are Grana Padano and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Although the cheeses have some similarities they are not the same. Here we look at the key differences between these two cheeses.
Grana Padano is Italy’s most produced cheese, with about 24% of the country’s milk production used to make it. Grana Padano comes from the Po River Valley and is a Protected Designation of Origin (DOP) cheese. This means that it has to be made in a certain place, following specific rules in order to be able to call itself ‘Grana Padano’.
Parmigiano-Reggiano comes from the region encompassing the cities of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna and Mantova. Like Grana Padano it is a DOP cheese. Parmigiano-Reggiano cows must only feed off grass and cereals grown in the area and the cows providing the milk must be milked twice a day. The milk for Parmigiano-Reggiano must be delivered to the cheesery within two hours of milking and must not fall below 18C in temperature as this is important for the bacteria that ripens the cheese.
Both cheeses have a kind of grainy, crystalline texture. The crystals in the cheese are tyrosine and are an indication of the level of ripeness. Both cheeses are made in large drum shapes which are cracked open with a specifically designed triangular knife.
Grana Padano is made with partially skimmed raw milk and although the cows are also milked twice a day, the milk does not have to arrive at the cheesery until 24 hours after milking. It has a lower fat content than Parmigiano-Reggiano, which is made from a mix of whole and skimmed milk. The cows for each type of cheese graze on different pastures which results in different taste.
Grana Padano matures more quickly that Parmigiano-Reggiano and is made to three stages of maturity; 9-16 months when it has a delicate flavour, softer texture and pale yellow colour; 16-20 months when it is grainier with notes of butter, hay and dried fruit; and over 20 months when it has a rich buttery flavour and crystals are present.
Parmigiano-Reggiano takes a minimum of 12 months to mature and has a stronger, more complex, nuttier and saltier taste than Grana Padano. For this reason Grana Padano is more usually used in cooking, while Parmigiano-Reggiano is more often grated on top of a dish.