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The Wheel: Parmigiano Reggiano and Brie

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Welcome to the second installment of Panna’s new column, The Wheel, featuring Whole Foods Market cheese buyer, Cathy Strange. In this issue Cathy brings us two fan favorites: Parmigiano Reggiano and Brie.

We all know it wouldn’t be spaghetti and meatballs without a sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano, but did you know this Italian cheese has been made for over 1,000 years? Parmigiano Reggiano is a PDA cheese or protected designation of origin which means it’s regulated from the feed, to where the animals are raised, to the copper vats that are used and to how it’s matured.

Look for a pin dot marking on the rind to know you have the real deal — it's the true sign of classic Parmigiano Reggiano. Plus, break off little nuggets and enjoy the nutty, intense flavor with grapes and walnuts or as a garnish for soups, salads and, of course, pasta.  

It’s no secret that Brie is one of the most beloved cheeses in America, but did you know Brie wasn’t even well known in this country until the 1950’s? Most true Brie comes from France and in varying sizes, so the length of time to ripen this soft cheese with a bloomy rind will depend on how large the wheel is. Look for ripe cheese that has a little give, but is not too soft or runny. Brie’s an excuse to pop the bubbly because it goes perfectly with effervescent drinks such as Champagne, sparkling cider or a lager beer.

So the next time you’re buying cheese, be sure to impress the cheesemonger with your knowledge of Parmigiano Reggiano and Brie.