In the recent years, following the new trends, parmesan cheese has also become the king in aperitive buffets, accompanying chips and olives while enjoying a glass of good wine, especially if sparkling.
Parmesan cheese has entered into our daily routine as an essential ingredient, always present in our tables, most of the times grated and ready to be served to complement our "first" courses (pasta, risotto, gnocchi). And what about Grana Padano? Definetely it's less famous abroad than his brother despite they are very similar and they are both PDOs "certified" (protected denomination of origin).
Being from Veneto region I am used to it but to be more aware of what means eating Grana Padano instead of Parmigiano Reggiano I have decided to visit the "foreign territory" to upgrade my "foodies" culture.
That's the reason why I have decided to visit a Parmigiano Reggiano producer, Colla Spa (they actually produce both cheeses: for more information visit their web page www.collaspa.it), curious to see with my eyes the full production process and understand the main differences of this cheese compared to the Grana Padano. I have joined the Gourmetteria team and, as usual, we enjoyed so much.
And now it's the time to share what I have learnt.
The technical process followed for the production of Parmigiano and Grana is basically the same.What makes the big difference is the seasoning process and the cows nutrition.
The milk from which the cheese is produced comes necessarily from two milkings in the Parmigiano, one takes place in the morning and one in the evening (for Grana one milking would be allowed even if the pratice is to make two as for Parmesan). The milk generated from the cow in the evening is left 15 hours resting, reaching a 1.5% of fat. This milk is then mixed with the one produced the morning after which is fatter; this blend stabilize the fat at around 2.4%. This % is slightly lower in Grana Padano, for which the cheese making can develop throughout one single day from one or two milkings of partially skimmed milk that take place in the morning and the following one in the same evening, giving birth to a slightly less fat product.
In any case both of them are more suitable to keep us "fit" than mozzarella cheese, against most common belief that the latter is light and ideal for diets!
What about cows "meals"? Parmigiano cows are more spoiled! They eat only green forage and grass hay. The Grana Padano ones can eat also fermented forage that requires the addition of a natural preservative.
The minimum seasoning for Parmigiano is 12 months and it can reach up to 36. His younger brother has a minimum of 9 and a maximum of 24.
Last but not least, Grana Padano can be made in five regions north of the Po River in northern Italy - Padana basically means the Po River valley - while Parmigiano-Reggiano can only come from the cities of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna and Mantua.
Grano Padano is less saulty than Parmigiano with a more delicate flavor that makes it more ideal when it's used as a complementary ingredient.
My recommendation? Eats the one you like most and ... enjoy!