There's no disputing it: cheese is one of our favourite foods. Whether we're eating it on a cheese board, in a sandwich, grating it over our pasta or nibbling it at a picnic, cheese has an enduring, delicious appeal. And, it seems, it always has done – especially Parmigiano Reggiano, the iconic cheese whose roots stretch back almost 1,000 years.
But Parmigiano Reggiano is more than just a cheese – it's a way of life in some in the specific area in northern Italy where Parmigiano Reggiano is made. For all its sharp, umami-laden flavour that’s loved by millions, its production remains on a much more authentic, artisanal scale than you might imagine.
One of the reasons why Parmigiano Reggiano has stood the test of time – aside from its incredible flavours – is that from its beginnings in the Middle Ages, it has always been made to last and to travel well.
Its ability to maintain its quality after long journeys saw its popularity grow across Italy and Europe. Nearly 1,000 years later, when we’re about to go into a second summer of picnics and eating outdoors, this makes Parmigiano Reggiano the ideal addition to your social occasions, whether they're in your garden or in the park.
As we head into a second summer of outdoor eating, here are three recipes ideas on how to use this unique cheese.
Parmigiano Reggiano roast potato salad with parsley, egg and caper dressing
There's a delicious simplicity to this roast potato salad, with its dual use of finely grated and shaved Parmigiano Reggiano
4 tablespoons of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
Peel the carrots with a potato peeler. If very large cut into halves or quarters. Place them on a tray lined with baking paper and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for 25-30 minutes, turning them over. Sprinkle with cumin, a pinch of cinnamon and sweet paprika.
Prepare the Parmigiano Reggiano wafers: cut out baking paper square and place a tablespoon of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese in the middle of each one. Using the back of a spoon press the cheese into a circle and place one sheet of paper at a time in the microwave oven and heat at maximum power setting for 1 minute, just until the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese starts to melt. Take them out and let them cool. Gently peel off the baking paper.
Heat the oil in a pan with the garlic, cook until golden and then remove it. Add the lentils and thyme and cook them for a few minutes. Adjust the seasoning.
Place a layer of lentils in a serving dish, arrange the carrots on top and serve with the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese slivers, the almonds (roasted in a pan with no fat) and the thyme.
Parmigiano Reggiano, garlic and parsley tear-and-share flatbread
Hearty, hardy and satisfying, this tear-and-share flatbread makes for an ideal picnic dish
Parmigiano Reggiano shavings and extra parsley, for sprinkling
Extra, to serve: Parmigiano Reggiano chunks, thyme sprigs, olives, roasted peppers and anything you fancy
Tip the flour into a large bowl and stir in the salt, sugar and yeast. Pour in the olive oil and water and mix with your hand, then bring the dough together.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead vigorously for 10 minutes. Transfer to a large lightly oiled bowl and cover with a clean cloth. Stand in a warm place and leave to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Turn the dough out onto a surface sprinkled with a little flour and knead it lightly for 1 minute. Divide into 2 equal pieces. Roll out into circles measuring approximately 30x30cm. Lift onto 2 large lightly oiled baking sheets. Leave in a warm place for 20-30 minutes to rise.
Mix together the butter, crushed garlic, chopped parsley and grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Spread over the flatbreads.
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Bake the flatbreads for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm, topped with Parmigiano Reggiano shavings and extra parsley, accompanied by Parmigiano Reggiano chunks, thyme sprigs, olives, roasted peppers, etc.
Cook's tip: Cool and freeze one of the flatbreads to serve another day.