The secret to sumptuous Italian food is the generous use of cheese that brings delectable flavors to the table. Grana Padano and parmesan are two of the most well-known and commonly used Italian cheeses. But did you know that these two kinds of cheese are not the same?
With over 400 kinds of Italian cheese, finding the difference between the two varieties is difficult. One such confusion often arises between Grana Padano and Parmesan.
Both varieties of cheese come from northern Italy. So, what’s the difference between Grana Padano vs. Parmesan? Despite looking similar, Grana Padano and Parmesan have different taste profiles and maturity periods.
In the article below, we will look closely at how Grana Padano is different from Parmesan, which is better, and some delicious recipes to make using both these varieties.
Grana Padano Vs. Parmesan | Difference Table
|Type of Cheese||Hard Cheese||Hard Cheese|
|Best Served At||68–72 °F||68–72 °F|
|Flavor (Less Mature)||Balanced creamy, buttery, cheesy, and earthy flavor.||Slightly sweet, earthy, and buttery flavor.|
|Flavor (Mature)||Intense Cheesy and Striking flavor.||Salty and intense flavor.|
|Aroma Notes||Fresh fruit and yogurt.||Milk and cream flavor notes.|
|Best Used in||Pasta, salads, sandwiches, etc.||Salads, bread, savory food, sandwiches, etc.|
|Best Used As||Topping or grated over food.||Cooked with food.|
|Aged For||At least 12-36 months.||At least 9-20 months.|
|Texture||Hard and granular.||Firm.|
What Is Grana Padano?
Italy is famous for producing exceptional varieties of cheese. One of its most well-known varieties is Grana Padano. This cheese comes from the Po River Valley and is a Protected Designation of Origin (DOP) cheese.
This means to be able to call itself ‘Grana Padano,’ it has to be made in a certain place, following specific rules.
Grana means “grainy” in Italian. This cheese’s characteristics are reflected in its fine granular texture and unique flavor. As Grana Padano ages, its flavors become pronounced, savory and complex. Moreover, its texture becomes crumblier.
Grana Padano is made from unpasteurized, semi-skimmed cow’s milk from two milking’s. It is generally aged for two years.
Grana Padano develops a firm, thick, and deeply straw-colored rind that protects its taste and flavor as it ages.
Grana Padano is manufactured with cylindrical wheels. They measure 35 to 45 cm in diameter and 15 to 18 cm in height. This cheese is sold at different ripening stages. Grana Padano is sold at 9 to 16 months, Grana Padano oltre 16 mesi is sold over 16 months, and Grana Padano Riserva is sold over 20 months.
What Is Parmesan?
In the US, Parmigiano Reggiano is referred to as Parmesan. However, it should be noted that both are different. By law, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese can only be called, so if set standards in a specific Italian region produce it.
Parmesan cheese is a less expensive and less flavorful version of the real deal. It’s made similarly to Parmigiano Reggiano, but since it is not produced in the appropriate region in Italy or with the same recipe and procedure, it can’t be tagged as Parmigiano Reggiano.
Parmesan is made from pasteurized and clarified skim milk. The texture of such cheese is granular and hard, and it has a brittle rind. Parmesan cheese is aged for 12 months. This cheese is often sold as pre-shredded or pre-grated.
Grana Padano Vs. Parmesan | What’s The Difference?
Grana Padano and Parmesan are the two most popular Italian kinds of cheese used widely. Let’s take a look at how different they are from each other.
The difference between Grana Padano and Parmesan majorly depends on the cow fodder, the milk used, and the aging process.
Grana Padano is made with skimmed milk to achieve a creamy, firm, and slightly grainy texture without being too much like other types of hard cheeses.
Parmesan is made using a mixture of skimmed and whole-fat milk, which gives this cheese it’s signature creamy and buttery texture and flavor.
It can also be made with cream, skim milk, concentrated skim milk, nonfat dry milk, or water sufficient to reconstitute any concentrated skim milk or nonfat dry milk used.
The cows for each type of cheese graze on different pastures, which results in different tastes.
2. Aging And Production
The aging of cheese is the most important step in cheese production that directly impacts its taste and texture. As the cheese ages, it loses its moisture, and the process of enzyme development begins.
These enzymes help to transform lactose into lactic acid that further builds into other amino acids to give the aged cheese its unique taste.
Thus, in the case of Grana Padano and Parmesan, Grana Padano matures more quickly than the latter. It is made to mature in three stages; 9-16 months, when it has a delicate flavor, softer texture, and pale yellow color. At 16-20 months, the cheese turns grainier with notes of butter, hay, and dried fruit. Over 20 months, Grana Padano develops a rich buttery flavor with crystals ford on its surface.
On the other hand, Parmesan takes a minimum of 12 months to mature. This cheese has a stronger and more complex flavor profile. It has a nuttier and saltier taste than Grana Padano.
3. Taste and Texture
Taste and texture are the two major differentiating factors between Grana Padano and Parmesan. This factor depends largely upon what the cow feeds on and the resultant milk.
Grana Padano is butterier, softer, and tastes more delicate than Parmesan. At the same time, Parmesan has a complex, nuttier, and saltier taste. Moreover, Parmesan has a unique aroma that becomes more recognizable as it matures.
Grana Padano cheese has a hard and grainy texture, whereas Parmesan is hard but has a gritty texture.
Speaking of the uses of Grana Padano and Parmesan, both cheese varieties have different uses. With its creamy texture and buttery flavors, Grana Padano pairs well with bread, fruits, wine, savory foods, and salads. It can also be served on its own as an antipasto or as part of a cheeseboard.
Parmesan cheese is famously used in pasta recipes. It is grated, shredded, sliced, and shaved over pasta, risotto, soups, and salads.
Grana Padano Vs. Parmesan | Which One Is Healthier?
If we compare the health benefits of Grana Padano and Parmesan cheese, both are great for health. They are rich in protein, nutrients, and minerals, providing great bone health.
However, people prone to milk allergies should avoid both these kinds of cheese as they are made from milk.
Grana Padano Vs. Parmesan | Which One Is Tastier?
Grana Padano and Parmesan both bring their unique flavors to the table. The answer to which is one tastier depends on their age and the dish they are served, along with personal preference.
However, to pick one, I would call Grana Padano tastier as it has a more delicate taste than Parmesan. You can use it in many ways and increase its quantity depending on its age. Grana Padano’s lighter taste ensures you won’t over-flavor your dish.
Top Recipes To Make With Grana Padano
Grana Padano will be a great choice if you are looking for ways to add cheese to your diet. Find out some interesting recipes below to make the best use of this cheese.
1. Savoury Grana Padano Biscotti
Do you like cheesy bites for snacking? Try out the savory Grana Padano biscotti recipe for a unique twist on your regular biscotti. This biscotti is flavored with Grana Padano and salted almond, providing a great crunch.
Check out the full recipe here.
2. Grana Padano And Pickled Onion Barley Risotto
Risotto made of arborio rice is a commonly found dish. But have you ever had barley risotto? No? Then check out this rich and creamy Grana Padano and pickled onion barley risotto recipe that features pear barley cooked with onion puree, Grana Padano, garlic, and butter.
You will surely fall in love with this healthy risotto recipe. Check out the full recipe here.
3. Pasta Primavera
If you enjoy a medley of vegetables in your pasta, try out this pasta primavera recipe that achieves a spectacular taste from Grana Padano. It’s colorful, delightful, and oh-so-wonderful! Learn how to make pasta primavera by following the recipe instructions here.
4. Aubergine And Grana Padano Croquettes
Aubergine and Grana Padano croquettes are a great snack to munch on. It’s crunchy, cheesy, and all things good. This recipe features diced aubergines mixed with grated Grana Padano and seasoning. The mixture is converted into balls and fried to make a delicious appetizer.
Find the full recipe to make aubergine and Grana Padano croquettes recipe here.
5. Grana Padano Crisps With Thyme And Pink Pepper
Diced Grana Padano is a great choice to serve on a charcuterie board, paired with drinks. But what if I tell you that you can turn into crunchy cheesy chips that taste incredible?
Make the easiest and most delicious appetizer for your guests using the Grana Padano crisps with thyme and pink pepper recipe using just three ingredients.
Top Recipes To Make With Parmesan
Now that you have learned about the characteristics of Parmesan cheese let’s take a look at some recipes that make the best use of this cheese.
1. Jalapeno Popper Spread
Try out this jalapeno popper spread recipe if you wish to make a mouthwatering appetizer using Parmesan cheese. This recipe brings together different kinds of cheese to make the most delectable spread that can be served with chips, crackers, vegetables, and more.
The base of this recipe is cream cheese. The flavors of this spread benefit from the use of grated parmesan cheese and diced jalapeno peppers.
2. Bruschetta Chicken
Love chicken and parmesan cheese? Pair the two together to make bruschetta chicken. This recipe features chicken breast coated with bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, garlic, and seasoning. It is baked in the oven for 30 minutes. The result is crispy chicken infused with the flavors of Parmesan cheese.
Check out the full recipe for bruschetta chicken here.
3. Zucchini Onion Pie
Make the best pie to delight your guests using this recipe. This dish features sliced zucchini with grated parmesan cheese, fresh parsley, garlic, onion, and seasoning. It gets ready in the oven in 30 minutes and makes for the most divine side dish.
4. Ziti Bake
Parmesan cheese is famously used over pasta dishes for a punch of flavors. This pasta recipe makes the most of its flavors in combination with ground beef, sauce, mozzarella cheese, ricotta cheese, and more.
Learn how to make ziti bake here.
5. Italian Hot Dish
If you are looking for a hearty dish that benefits from a sprinkling of parmesan cheese, then you must try the Italian hot dish. This dish features multigrain bow-tie pasta with ground beef, mushrooms, green peppers, oregano, tomato sauce, and of course, parmesan cheese. This healthy casserole will soon become your all-time favorite. Check out the full recipe here.
Grana Padano Vs. Parmesan | Which One Is More Versatile?
In terms of versatility, Grana Padano is a clear winner. It is one of the most popular types of Italian cheese. Grana Padano is found in three vintages, distinguished by the length of the aging process. This quality of Grana Padano makes it a great choice to add to various dishes and in different ways.
This cheese can be used in sauces and gratins. It can be eaten solo or as a topping over pasta, risotto, soups, etc.
Its mellow flavor also ensures that you can add it to any dish without the fear of cheese overpowering the flavor of the dish.
Can We Substitute Grana Padano Vs. Parmesan
After reading about the qualities of both kinds of cheese, you may have also noticed how similar they are. Thus the question arises whether Grana Padano can be substituted for Parmesan.
So, the short answer to this question is yes. Both varieties of cheese can be substituted for each other. But you should know how to play with them.
However, while substituting these two varieties for each other, the maturity of the cheese must be kept in mind, as it directly impacts the flavor.
For example, with its longer maturity, Parmesan, when used for cooking, will provide a more intense flavor as compared to a less mature piece of Grana Padano. Similarly, while swapping cheese for grating purposes, Grana Padano may not be able to provide the same texture as Parmesan.
Therefore, one must keep this factor in mind while working with them as each other’s substitutes.
Grana Padano Vs. Parmesan | Which One Is Better?
If we look at all the facts mentioned above, Grana Padano is definitely a better and more popular choice. This Italian cheese is versatile, has great taste, and can be found everywhere.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is Grana Padano cheese?
Grana Padano is a popular Italian hard cheese, quite similar to parmesan cheese.
Why is Grana Padano cheaper than Parmesan?
While Grana Padano is made in a certain region of Italy, this region is much larger, which increases its production. Thus, Grana Padano is more affordable than Parmesan.
What does Grana Padano taste like?
The taste of Grana Padano cheese depends on its maturity. But Grana Padano essentially has a delicate, sweet, buttery, and earthy taste.
What does Parmesan taste like?
Parmesan has a nutty and savory taste that is stronger than Grana Padano.
Which cheese can be eaten on its own between Parmesan and Grana Padano?
Both varieties of cheese can be eaten on their own.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article. To find out more comparisons between food items like these, head to our website. If you have any questions related to this topic, feel free to ask me in the comments below.