One of Italy’s most famous culinary jewels, Parmigiano Reggiano, is taking centre stage at Whole Foods Market throughout the month of February as talented cheese mongers sharpen their skills for a variety of in-store tastings and the much-anticipated ‘parm cracking’ ritual!
In an attempt to break its own Guinness World Record set in 2008, Whole Foods Markets across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. will simultaneously break into hundreds of wheels of 24-month-aged Parmigiano Reggiano on February 27 at 12 p.m. PST. Using traditional tools from Italy’s Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano Reggiano, cheese mongers will carve and portion each 85-pound wheel in approximately half an hour – truly a sight to be seen.
A versatile cheese featuring nutty and sweet flavours and a creamy and crystalline texture, Parmigiano Reggiano makes a perfect addition to a variety of recipes or a delightful treat all on its own. Whole Foods Market is proud to offer the best Parmigiano available – hand-selected with the help of artisan producers in Italy, the cheese is carefully aged for two years to bring out the richest flavour possible.
Leading up to the big event on February 27, Whole Foods Market is creating a series of fabulous recipes using this incomparable cheese – we’ve included our favourites below – and is hosting tasting events throughout the month. Customers are also invited to participate in an online recipe contest for a chance to win a $500 shopping spree, authentic cheese knives and gift baskets. From now until February 10, shoppers can go to Whole Foods Market’s Behind the Rind website www.wholefoodsmarket.com/products/behindtherind/ to share new and innovative ways to enjoy delicious Parmigiano!
Did you know?
- A traditional product dating back almost 1,000 years, only Parmesan cheese made in one area of northern Italy can bear the name Parmigiano Reggiano.
- After one year of aging, each wheel that passes the test is branded with an oval certification mark and then left to continue aging. Whole Foods Market only carries 24-month aged Parmigiano – 12 months beyond the time required to prove authenticity.
- The unique crystals found in Parmigiano, called Tyrosine, are formed when the proteins in the milk break down during the aging process.
- “Parm cracking” is a centuries-old art of opening the cheese wheel so that the internal crystalline structure, with its characteristic crumbly texture, is left fully intact.
- Old Italian cheese mongers say that breaking into a 24-month aged Parmigiano is like “cracking open happiness.”
- Parmigiano is a practical decadence for those watching budgets and calories and the cheese can last for weeks in the fridge.
In its first-ever attempt, Whole Foods Market set the Guinness World Record for “Most Parmigiano Reggiano Wheels Cracked Simultaneously”, with nearly 300 wheels opened at 176 stores.
Pairings and Recipes
Parmigiano Reggiano is excellent on its own – broken up into cubes or slivers on a cheese plate – or as a perfect complement to soups, salads and entrees. Here are some delicious serving suggestions and recipes that highlight the subtle bite, sweet nuttiness and “pleasant fireworks” it ignites on the tongue.
- Pair with wine jelly, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar reduction, thickly sliced charcuterie, fresh fruit, nuts or honey
- Sprinkle slivers on a salad of sliced fennel and oranges with toasted walnuts and extra virgin olive oil
- Grate over grilled zucchini, butternut squash or pears
- Add slivers to an omelette with sautéed mushrooms and prosciutto
- Serve with a light-to-medium red wine such as a Chianti or a sparkling white wine such as Prosecco
Parmigiano Reggiano Crisps
Makes about 20 crisps
These savoury crisps are a simple and irresistible snack with a glass of wine or a decadent garnish for risotto, Caesar salad or creamy soup. Can be prepared several days ahead of time and stored in an airtight container.
1 cup grated (not shredded) Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
Pinch of cayenne pepper, espelette pepper or freshly cracked black pepper (optional)
Preheat oven to 300°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Mix cheese with thyme (and pepper) in a bowl. To form each crisp, spoon 2 to 3 teaspoons of the cheese mixture onto a baking sheet, spacing the piles 2 to 3 inches apart. Lightly press cheese with the back of a spoon or your fingers to flatten each pile into a 2-inch circle.
Bake until slightly browned on top – 8 to 12 minutes. Remove baking sheets from oven and cool for a few minutes to let crisps firm up. Slide parchment off baking sheet and use a spatula to loosen the crisps. They should be slightly flexible, but will harden as they finish cooling. Repeat process with remaining mixture.
Allow crisps to cool completely before storing in an airtight container, layered between sheets of waxed paper.
Per serving (5 crisps/20g-wt.): 90 calories (50 from fat), 6g total fat, 3.5g saturated fat, 20mg cholesterol, 310mg sodium, 1g total carbohydrate (0g dietary fiber, 0g sugar), 8g protein
For more information on Parmigiano Reggiano please visit the Whole Foods Market website at