Tracing Parmigiano-Reggiano's history back to the year 1344, the first recorded reference to the iconic Italian cheese is in a purchasing ledger for a prior's refectory. That comes as no surprise given that the monks of Emilia-Romagna were long experimenting with cheesemaking, including double-heating the milk to produce Parmigiano-Reggiano's signature pasty consistency that would eventually harden into dense drums. Far more intriguing is the second oldest reference to the cheese found in Giovanni Bocaccio's 1353 masterpiece, The Decameron. Through Bocaccio's work, we get a glimpse into life in medieval Italy, including how they ate: "and there was a whole mountain of Parmigiano cheese, all finely grated, on top of which stood people who were doing nothing but making macaroni and ravioli."
Claims have been made -- and not challenged -- that Parmigiano-Reggiano has been made according to the same recipe for over 800 years. Real Parmigiano-Reggiano can be made only in specific regions from mid-April to mid-November. This ensures that the milk used comes from cows who were pastured on fresh local grass. The cheese is hard, grateable, and sometimes crunchy with deep, rich flavors, which heighten any food it graces.
The La Villa farm is located south of Parma and keeps 300 Brown Alpine cows, which produce milk known for high protein levels. An organic, farmstead operation, La Villa raises its own cows, manages its own feed and produces 4-6 wheels of Parmigiano per day.
Farm / Company: La Villa
Milk Type: Cow
Milk Treatment: Raw
Rind: Natural, fostered in brine bath
Aging: 18-20 months
Size(s): 80 pound wheel