10 Delicious Reasons to buy Real Parmesan Cheese


I work with a guy, Graham, who despite limited cooking facilities is pretty interested in cooking for himself and eating well. I suggested he try making Alfredo Sauce which is so quick, simple, easy and yet absolutely delicious. See here for easy Alfredo Sauce recipe.

When I got to the Parmesan bit he asked if the ready grated would work or would he have to buy it in the piece and I related to him a tale I had heard years ago of grated “Parmesan” being made of grated umbrella handles. 

I thought I’d try to find the truth of the matter. I wondered if it was an urban myth but was surprised to find that not only is it true; a guy in Italy in 1969 was in fact doing the dirty deed but, furthermore and coincidentally, the matter seems to be trending!

Apparently the FDA recently found that  one company’s “100% grated Parmesan Cheese.”  was a mixture of other cheeses and cellulose. So they went on to investigate other grated “parmesan” producers and you can read what the FDA discovered here.

According to the Guardian it probably won’t kill you but, call me a foodie if you will, I want more from my food than just surviving the experience and expect you do to. So my answer to Graham is:

“Buy the real thing”

Here are 10+ good reasons to buy delicious real Parmesan cheese …

1.      Peppered Parmesan Popcorn

Simples – just toss freshly popped corn with butter, freshly grated Parmesan and lots of freshly grated black pepper. 

2.    Add Parmesan to Pangrattato

You might not know what I am talking about but see here for this Quick Cheap Easy Way to Improve Almost Any Meal.

3.    La Macronade

This is basically hot cooked pasta tossed with the rich juices from a meaty stew and layered up with plenty of freshly grated Parmesan. Finish with a layer of parmesan (and I don’t think it’s traditional but I’d add a handful of breadcrumbs to the top layer for extra crunch) then grill or pop in a hot oven till the top is golden.

4.   Roasted Garlic & Parmesan Polenta – enough for 4

700ml vegetable stock
145g cornmeal
2 teaspoons roasted garlic - see here for how to roast garlic 
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

~   Bring the water to a boil and stir in the Oxo cube, if using, till dissolved.
~   Slightly moisten the cornmeal till it is the texture of wet sand (this is a trick to keep the polenta smooth taught to me by a girl I used to work with, Cardella,  in the West Indies - for which I thank her).

~   Add the wet cornmeal to the boiling water and stir in thoroughly.
~   Turn down the heat and simmer stirring almost all the time, it will thicken quite quickly but still needs to simmer for another 10 minutes or so till completely cooked.
~   Stir in the roasted garlic and the cheese, taste and season (I like lots of pepper) and serve immediately topped by something delicious and savoury.

Leftover polenta is delicious fried by the way - 7 ways to use leftover polenta here.

5.   Salad of Roasted Pears with Shavings of the Best Parmesan you can find

1 not quite ripe pear per person
20g butter per person
½ tablespoon soft light brown sugar per person
½ tablespoon of sherry or balsamic vinegar per person
tender salad leaves
some great Parmesan in the piece

~   Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/180ºC fan/gas 2.
~   Peel the pears, remove the core, and cut them into wedges.
~   When the oven is hot put the butter and the sugar into an appropriate sized ovenproof dish and heat in the oven till the butter has melted.
~   At the pear wedges and toss to coat.
~   Cook for about 10 minutes till tender.
~   Remove the pears from the pan and set aside to cool somewhat.
~   Stir the vinegar into the juices in the pan, taste and season and also set aside to cool.
~   To serve toss a handful of salad leaves per person in the juices and arrange on plates or in a bowl.
~   Arrange the pear wedges on top and then using a potato peeler shave a generous amount of Parmesan over the salad.



6.   Mushrooms on Toast with (Black Garlic if you can get it) Alfredo

7.   Stir into soup as in this Parmesan and Roasted Garlic Soup from my soup recipe cookbook which gives one key recipe plus all the info I can think of and 60+ soups based on the key recipe.


8.   Parmesan and Garlic Butter 

Just add freshly grated Parmesan to garlic butter and use in all sorts of fabulous ways such as ...

     ~   garlic bread
     ~   swirl into hot soup
     ~   chill and slice to top steak, chicken, fish etc.
or asparagus!
     ~   serve on corn
     ~   spread in appropriate sandwiches
     ~   pop in a jacket potato
     ~   add to mashed potato
     ~   after pan frying something and setting aside to rest stir the butter into the juices  for a quick sauce
     ~   add to pasta or risotto
     ~   etc.

Read more about compound butters here.

9.   Asparagus & Parmesan Sauce or Pesto

Cook asparagus till tender but not at all mushy and purée with butter and Parmesan cheese for a simple sauce or with the classic Pesto ingredients; garlic, Parmesan, olive oil and pine nuts, to be almost authentic. Stir through cooked peas, hot pasta or serve as a dip.


10.   Don’t throw away Parmesan rinds!

~ Simmer in tomato sauces or soups, as is traditional when making Minestrone, or in any sauce or soup that you would grate Parmesan over.
~ Parmesan broth – simmer rinds in chicken or vegetable stock together with your choice of flavourings for an hour or more. Strain and use the broth in soup, sauces, and risotto.
~ Marinate in olive oil together with flavourings such as herbs, garlic, black peppercorns or chilli. Discard the rind and use the oil to drizzle or dip.

As you may know I am a bugger for leftovers so please see here for 64 Ideas for Leftover Cheese many of which can be made with Parmesan (plus a Joke!) 

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