With an aging of 12 to 18 months, Grana Padano is like the younger sibling of Parmigiano-Reggiano, which may be aged for as long as 24 to 30 months or more. Less expensive than its more famous counterpart, Grana Padano remains very similar in taste and texture to Parmigiano-Reggiano, though it is a milder and less complex cheese. It is, nevertheless, excellent for grating on pasta or for snacking on by the sliver.
“Grana” means grainy, which refers to the somewhat granular texture of the cheese. “Padano” is an adjective describing the Po River Valley in Northern Italy, where the cheese originated in the 12th century as a way for medieval monasteries to preserve excess milk. The cheese is still made in this region today from the milk of grass-fed cows, following the strict guidelines of the Consorzio per la Tutela del Formaggio Grana Padano.
A recent issue (no. 35) of the Italian food and wine magazine Gambero Rosso features an article praising Grana Padano as “Italy’s favorite cheese.” The author, Saverio Paffumi, writes:
Although Italy is proud of producing well over 400 types of cheese (more even than France), one type or another of grana cheese is in 99% of Italian homes. Grana is like bread and spaghetti. There’s no household without it.
Widely available at cheese shops and gourmet stores, Grana Padano is $6.99/pound at Agata & Valentina, 1505 First Avenue (at 79th Street), and $19.95 for 2 pounds online from agferrari.com.