By Bob Lipinski
Adding grated cheese to a dish of pasta is something we do automatically, sometimes without regard to the type of cheese we’re using or which is suggested in the recipe. Not all grated cheeses are alike. These hard-grating cheeses belong to a group known as grana (in Italian), which means they have a flaky, grainy or granular texture; sharp, well-aged and hard to very hard. These cheeses are suitable for grating when they begin to get old.
Grana cheeses can be made from cow, sheep or even goat’s milk. Although most are made in Italy, some are produced in Greece, Switzerland, Argentina and the United States.
Parmigiano-Reggiano is one of the most popular grana cheeses, but keep in mind, “all Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses are grana, but not all grana cheeses are Parmigiano-Reggiano.” Italian hard cheeses were once referred to as “cacio duro.” The word “Grana” is legally protected by Grana Padano Protected Designation of Origin, such that only Grana Padano can use the term to sell its produce in EU countries.
Some examples of grana cheeses are Asiago, Bagozzo, Crotonese, Grana Padano, Granone Lodigiano, Parmigiano-Reggiano, pecorino, Piave, Vacchino Romano (Italy), Kefalotyri (Greece), Sapsago and Sbrinz (Switzerland), Reggianito (Argentina) and dry Jack (U.S.).
Grana cheeses will keep for several months if wrapped in damp cheesecloth and then enclosed in aluminum foil and refrigerated. You can purchase grana cheese either previously grated or in chunk form.
If purchasing already grated, plan on using it within 60 days since it will begin to dry out. When using chunks, grate only the cheese you need at one time and refrigerate the unused portion. Hard cheeses may be frozen for up to eight weeks but should then be used for grating, shredding or cooking.
In addition to sprinkling on pasta or popcorn, many grana cheeses are great enjoyed by the chunk with a piece of crusty bread and glass of wine (red or white) or even whiskey. Let the cheese come to room temperature for optimum enjoyment.
My wine recommendations are:
•2016 Standing Stone Riesling (Finger Lakes, NY)
•2016 Gundlach-Bundschu “dry” Gewürztraminer (Sonoma, CA)
•2016 Four Graces “Pinot Gris” (Willamette, OR)
•2016 Shooting Star “Chardonnay” (Lake County, CA)
•2013 Podere Ruggeri Corsini “Barbera Armujan” (Piedmont, Italy)
•2011 La Spinona “Barolo Sorì Gepin” (Piedmont, Italy)
•2015 Poggio al Sole “Chianti Classico” (Tuscany, Italy)
My whiskey recommendations are:
•Wild Turkey Rare Breed Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey Barrel Proof
•Jim Beam Black Label Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey
Bob Lipinski, a local author, has written 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need to Know About Gin, Vodka, Rum & Tequila” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He conducts training seminars on wine, spirits and food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR [email protected].