Arguably the most popular cheese in the world, Parmigiano Reggiano is also nicknamed the "king of cheeses". It is a hard, DOC, cows milk cheese named after the town of Parma and produced in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna, and Mantua. The milk used is unpasteurized, and comes from free-range cows. The milk is left overnight so that the cream can be skimmed off the next day and added with the fresh morning milk, making it a partially skim mixture. The texture of Parmigiano Reggiano is hard and grainy and its flavors are rich, nutty, and sweet with undertones of salt. It is a very versatile cheese as it commonly used as a grating cheese in the United States but primarily a table cheese in Europe. As with all aged cheeses, Parmigiano Reggiano intensifies in flavor and dry out as the cheese ages longer. There are three categories of ripeness for this cheese:
- "Fresco" - Aged between 12 and 18 months
- "Vecchio" - Aged between 18 and 24 months
- "Stravecchio" - Aged between 24 and 36 months
There are many imitations of this Parmigiano Reggiano, such as Parmesan (found in the United States and usually pre-grated with higher salt content) and Reggianito (manufactured in Argentina and much younger and milder).