By Jane Darling
Which premium parmesan will give that extra zing to your pasta and salads? Our taste tests also reveal some budget buys.
Parmesan – correctly known as Parmigiano Reggiano – can be pricey, so don't spend your wedge on a mediocre one. Use the results from our expert tasting panel to find the tastiest brand.
Cheddar cheese is far and away the most popular cheese in the UK, but we have a taste for continental cheeses, too. Gouda, emmental and brie are all enjoying increased popularity. And the same can be said for parmesan.
True parmesan, Parmigiano Reggiano DOP, has a very firm body, but retains some moisture and isn’t powdery. The flavour should be aromatic, with fruity, pineapple notes. Although it’s often restricted to shaving over pasta or pepping up a cheese sauce, parmesan can be nibbled on its own or with crackers. And it makes many happy pairings with the likes of celery, cherry tomatoes, pears, cured meats, beer or wine, or simply with a drizzle of balsalmic vinegar.
Our panel of cheese experts has decades of experience in all areas cheese-related. They nibbled their way though seven premium supermarket parmesans as well as several Italian-style hard cheeses.
Cheap parmesan alternatives
If parmesan is off the menu – for example, if you are a vegetarian or it’s just too pricey - you may be tempted by younger, cheaper, Italian-style hard cheeses. We asked our experts to try out these three cheeses.
- Tesco Everyday Value Italian style hard cheese £2.30/200g (£1.15/100g)
- Sainsbury’s Basics Italian hard cheese £2.20/200g (£1.10/100g)
- Morrisons Savers Italian style hard cheese £1.84/170g (£1.08/100g)
How we tested parmesan
Our experts blind-tasted parmesan and rated each one according to the following criteria:
- 50% taste
- 20% texture
- 20% aroma
- 10% appearance
Our parmesan experts...
Val Bines has more than 50 years’ experience in the cheese industry in teaching, R&D and consultancy.
Adam Byatt is chef and owner of Trinity, Upstairs and Bistro Union in Clapham, London.
Hero Hirsh is an award-winning cheesemonger and Paxton & Whitfield’s London Manager.
John Pearson is a cheese enthusiast who gives talks and cheese tastings with his company “Blessed are the cheesemakers”.
Nigel White is a cheese educator and marketer with 45 years’ experience in the dairy industry.