Today’s burning question is: what is the difference between Parmesan and Parmigiano-Reggiano?
Or are they in fact two different names for the same thing?
Parmigiano-Reggiano it would appear is like Cheddar and Champagne. It refers to an Italian hard cheese which is only made in a particular area in Italy, a handful of provinces, two of which are called Parma and Reggio-Emilia, from which the cheese takes its name. Similar cheese from outside this area cannot use the name Parmigiano-Reggiano.
So if you see a cheese called “Italian Hard Cheese” it may be very similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano – it’s just not allowed to use that particular name.
The name Parmesan is both the name for Parmigiano-Reggiano in the French language, and the English informal term for that cheese.
It may depend on where you are in the world as to what the Parmesan you buy actually is. In Europe, only Parmigiano-Reggiano can be called Parmesan.
However in the US a cheese called Parmesan does not strictly have to be Parmigiano-Reggiano, it may just indicate that it is a hard cheese made following a similar recipe, and not necessarily made in Italy.
So there you have it. All Parmigiano-Reggiano is Parmesan, but not all Parmesan is Parmigiano-Reggiano.