What better way to enjoy the taste of Italy than with an aperitivo?
This Italian tradition is most associated with northern Italy, where the aperitivo is thought to have originated, but has recently become more popular in other parts of the country and in Europe as a whole.
Taking place at the end of the workday, the aperitivo is a relaxing drink with friends, accompanied by a light meal or snack to whet the appetite before dinner. Considered an ideal way to unwind after work or ahead of a weekend dinner, no aperitivo is complete without at least a few chunks of Parmigiano Reggiano.
Parmigiano Reggiano is produced in a small area of northern Italy, including the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, and parts of Mantua and Bologna, and made using artisanal and natural production methods that have undergone very few changes over the centuries. As a product with Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status, Parmigiano Reggiano is governed by strict specifications ensuring it is 100% natural and only made with 3 ingredients – milk, salt, and rennet – and no additives or preservatives.
When enjoying Parmigiano Reggiano as part of an aperitivo, notice its prominent aromatic notes which range from melted butter to herbs and boiled vegetables, and even to fruity notes of citrus or tropical fruit.
Before tasting, Parmigiano Reggiano should be removed from the fridge, as it is best enjoyed at a temperature of 16-17°C. It is best cut (or “chunked”) with the classic almond-shaped knife to enhance its characteristic graininess, but a normal knife will also work. The taste and aromas of Parmigiano Reggiano fluctuate with its age, as more matured varieties tend to be stronger, “spicier”, and more fragrant.
A 12–18-month aged Parmigiano Reggiano is best paired with a sparkling white wine or Prosecco. This pairing can be enjoyed on its own or alongside raw vegetables such as celery and cherry tomatoes. Its delicate aroma is enhanced by mild fruit chutneys, such as apricot.
Multi-award-winning wine expert, author, and columnist, Olly Smith recommends pairing chunks of Parmigiano Reggiano with Franciacorta, a sparkling wine from the Province of Brescia in Lombardy: “Parmesan pairs brilliantly with wine and for a treat, try popping a bottle of fizz alongside, Italian Franciacorta is wonderful – zinging refreshment contrasting with the rich cheese, bubbles and crunch, it’s a sumptuous textural pairing that I adored while chatting with Gennaro Contaldo on my podcast A Glass With. As delicious as it is delightful!”
22-24-month aged Parmigiano Reggiano is most sold at UK supermarkets, and is perfectly paired with medium bodied wines, such as a Primitivo or Montepulciano. Enjoy on a cheeseboard with dehydrated fruits, particularly dried apricots, figs, and raisins.
Older ages of Parmigiano Reggiano, such as 30 months, 36 months, or even older, are crumblier and perfectly paired with fruit, honey or a few drops of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena or Reggio Emilia. This age should be enjoyed with a full-bodied wine, such as Cabernet Sauvingnon.
For more information and recipes with Parmigiano Reggiano, visit www.parmigianoreggiano.com
You can read more about how Parmigiano Reggiano is made by following the links below to articles by our contributors