WHAT IS GRANA PADANO?
The name Grana Padano is sometimes used incorrectly as a generic term (like the word “tomme” for French alpine cheeses). Grana Padano is if anything one of the more unique cheeses in the world. It is one of the few Italian cheeses that can give Parmesan Reggiano a run for its money.
WHERE IS GRANA PADANO MADE?
Grana Padano was invented in the 12th century by monks. Even today it is still made throughout the Pau River valley in northern Italy today. The word “grana” refers to the grainy texture of this cheese. And of course Padano refers to where the cheese is made.
HOW ARE GRANA AND REGGIANO CHEESES DIFFERENT?
Grana and Parm. Reg. are made in a very similar manner. Grana however is the less expensive cheese of the two. Grana’s milk is harvested from a wide swath of Italy (Emilia Romagna, Lombardy, Piedmont, Trentino and Veneto). Parmesan Reggiano in contrast has a much more limited milk supply. This is one of the major differences between these formaggios. Parm. also tends to be aged longer and has a few percent more milk fat. These are the reasons why Grana Padano has a younger, milder and less nuanced in flavor then Reggiano. But many retailers in the U.S.A. today sadly pride themselves on how cheap their Parmesan Reggiano prices are. When taking into account the low grade of a bargain priced Parmesan, Grana can actually be a much better value.
WHAT CAN I PAIR WITH GRANA PADANO?
Grana is a salty, aged cheese known for its rich, nutty flavor. So go big and bold or go home when choosing a wine. White Zinfandels and red Chianti’s or Barolos are popular choices. Dried fruits (with their stronger flavor versus fresh) can work well, though the juiciness of a fresh fruit can provide a nice texture contrast depending on what your recipe is shooting for. For cheese plates, if you want to do a tour of aged cow’s milk cheeses try a Dutch 3 year aged gouda and a French St. Antoine Comte. For an Italian theme DO NOT pair with a Parm. Regg. it is a waste of money. Instead embrace some of the other famous ambassadors and maybe mix up the milks with a buffalo mozzarella and mixed milk robiola. Grana also pairs nicely with a thin slice of prosciutto.