The Grana Padano [GRAH-nah pah-DAH-noh] is a delicious seasoned hard cheese of the Po Valley in northern Italy. It has the Dop label (protected designation of origin like pdo for the UK and g.U. for Austria and Germany). The name grana refers to its grainy texture, while padano means originated in the Padan Plain. It is in fact produced in these 5 regions: Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy, Piedmont, Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto.
Its story is really ancient. It was created in 1134 by some Cistercian monks of the Abbey of Chiaravalle near Milan, not to waste a huge production of milk they had. They called it in Latin caseus vetus, old cheese, but people soon began to call him just grana.
The Grana Padano must have specific characteristics listed in a Regulation of its Consortium, already sanctioned in the 1950s. Even the feeding of the cows (whose milk is used to produce it) is strictly controlled. After the seasoning, for example, the cheese wheels are checked by experts. Only if they pass the exam they can be fire branded with the logo. Only authorized cheese factories can produce it and each one of them is identifiable by a number imprinted on the cheese wheel.
Grana padano – Different types
It is sold in 3 different ripening stages:
- Grana Padano (9 to 16 months). Its texture is still creamy, so it is suitable to prepare sauces or to be cut into flakes and combined with raw dishes.
- Grana Padano oltre 16 mesi (over 16 months). It has a crumblier texture and a more pronounced taste. It is suitable for the preparation of fillings, omelettes, pizzas and quiches.
- Grana Padano Riserva (over 20 months). This one is more grainy and with a more marked flavour. It is the best to be grated or eaten as it is. It also has very little amount of lactose (only traces) so it can be eaten by the lactose intolerants (like me).
While my husband loves the most seasoned one, Riserva, I go crazy for the less seasoned because it is a little creamy and has a more delicate taste. I like eating it as it is: I cut a little cube and I eat it solo.
- WARNING If you intend to buy it, make sure that the name displayed on the package is “Grana padano” and not simply Grana, and that the official mark and the Dop label are displayed.
You can find further information, recipes, tips and more on the official website of the Consortium, www.granapadano.com, which is translated in many languages.
If you love food you can read other posts regarding Italian local products.