Parmesan cheese was a salty sprinkle of from a can when I was growing up. My mom allowed us to have a shake of the cheese over pasta and pizza, and I remember those as amazing meals (of course, pizza and pasta were also my two favorite food groups then). Today in my own kitchen, it’s authentic Parmigiano Reggiano that enlivens all manner of foods. And pulling out the Parmigiano Reggiano, which only comes from one area of northern Italy where producers adhere to rigorous production methods, is no longer just for special occasion dinners or exclusively for favorite Italian recipes.
The salty-sweet, nutty and crumbly cheese is an amazing flavor-booster for everything from salads dressings to roasted broccoli. That’s because Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is a great source of umami, that “fifth” taste of yummy-deliciousness that’s savory, satisfying and complex. And because of that concentrated source of flavor, a little Parmigiano Reggiano goes a long way to bump up the delicious quotient of almost any food.
And using a little hit of this satisfying cheese on foods can help tease the palate into thinking there’s more sodium there than actually delivered. A one-tablespoon grated portion of Parmigiano Reggiano has about 20 calories and 90 milligrams of sodium (nearly four percent of one’s daily allotment). As a smart garnish, that one tablespoon grated makes a great topper for pasta or a salad, adding nutty-salty and deep, rich flavor. Another way to look at this smart cook’s secret weapon: One-third cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano contains 407 milligrams sodium compared to 1/4 teaspoon table salt’s 580 milligrams; that’s a difference of 170 milligrams sodium! And 1/3 cup grated cheese can deliver big flavor to meatball mixtures, soups, breading mixtures and pesto.
Incorporate judicious amounts of Parmigiano Reggiano as a delicious complement to many foods that go beyond Italian applications. Here are some smart picks for upping flavor:
- A versatile side dish, this broccoli is a great complement to salty-sweet Parmigiano-Reggiano.
- Parmigiano Reggiano Baked Eggs with Swiss Chard is a smart brunch dish featuring the breakfast trifecta of eggs, cheese, and greens.
- Hang on to a Parmigiano Reggiano rind to make a batch of this hearty veggies and pasta soup extra-delicious.
- An easy chicken parm rendition with an easy-going nutrition profile. Serve over whole-grain noodles.
- A chicken noodle soup gains a double Parmigiano Reggiano hit with the rind used in the broth and fresh gratings over each serving.
- Thisparty mix incorporates Parmigiano Reggiano with nuts and dried fruits.
- Serve these sweet and salty granola bars made with the cheese for snacks or serve for a pleasantly sweet-salty dessert.
- Perfect for romaine salads or even to flavor wheat berries or quinoa, this salad dressing comes together quickly in the blender.
How do you enjoy and use Parmigiano Reggiano? What are your favorite uses?