A More Affordable Alternative To Parmigiano Reggiano

Although we regularly enjoy Italian cheeses here in America, what we can find in grocery stores in the States is nothing compared to the plethora of delicious cheeses available in Italy. This isn't surprising — cheese is a big deal to Italians. In Italy, cheese is used in appetizers, pasta, pizza, desserts ... the list goes on. There is even a festival on the Amalfi Coast dedicated to cheese, and according to Italy Foodies, it's only one of the country's many cheese-centered celebrations.

Among the Italian cheeses that are popular in America is Parmigiano Reggiano, which comes from skimmed or partially skimmed cow's milk and is hard, light yellow, and sharp (via The Spruce Eats). It's most commonly shaved on foods like salad and pasta, although it also pairs well with a glass of sparkling wine, according to Zingerman's Deli. While it's often mistaken for parmesan, don't get it twisted; these two are not the same. While "parmesan" is the English translation for "Parmigiano-Reggiano," the latter is heavily regulated in Italy and must be produced in specific Italian provinces to earn its name, notes The Spruce Eats.

As delicious as Parmigiano Reggiano is, many Americans top their pasta with parmesan instead. Why are we rejecting exceptional Italian cheese? For many people, Parmigiano Reggiano is just too expensive to eat regularly — according to Insider, it's more than double the price of the average cheddar. If you're looking for a cheaper cheese that doesn't sacrifice quality, however, there is another option. 

Grana Padano will have you cheesing

If you're willing to venture off the beaten (aka American) path, you may just discover your new favorite Italian cheese, one that's cheaper than Parmigiano Reggiano with a similar flavor profile. We're talking about Grana Padano, a hard, pale yellow cheese that is made from semi-skimmed cow's milk and aged for about two years, according to Cheese.com. Grana Padano even comes from a specific Italian region, reports Bon Appétit. Sound familiar?

Despite its similarities to Parmigiano Reggiano, you don't have to break the bank to get ahold of Grana Padano. According to Wise Living Magazine, Grana Padano has a similar taste and texture to Parmigiano Reggiano but is significantly less expensive. This may have to do with the fact that Grana Padano comes from a larger Italian region, so more people are allowed to make it (via Bon Appétit). It could also be because the restrictions around Grana Padano are much looser. Parmigiano Reggiano cows can only eat food grown in the area and their milk has to be at the dairy within two hours of milking, while Grana Padano cows are subject to no such regulations, notes Saucy Dressings.

Besides being affordable, Grana Padano is also slightly milder and sweeter than Parmigiano Reggiano, which can make it a more versatile cheese. If you're unconvinced, take a page out of chef Lidia Bastianich's book — she adds it to almost all her pastas and keeps extra on the table.