Parmigiano-Reggiano, just called Parmesan if made anywhere other than Italy, is the "king of cheese," according to the cheese industry. You can eat it alone or grate it over your food, and it pairs nicely with not only Italian dishes but also other ingredients as well. But if it's too expensive or simply not available at the store, there are other hard cheeses you can substitute in its place. The cheeses are similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano but have unique flavors and textures of their own.
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Grana Padano has the same granular, hard texture as Parmigiano-Reggiano but melts in the mouth once you take a bite. The flavor is nutty with hints of browned butter and has a sharp fruitiness balanced by a savory, salty finish.
Like Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana Padano is a hard, slow-ripened, semi-fat cheese made from cow's milk. The cheese comes from milk produced in the Po Valley region of northern Italy and is often considered a less expensive version of Parmesan cheese.
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American Grana, made by BelGioioso based in Wisconsin, is an American version of Parmigiano-Reggiano that has a smooth, waxy, granular texture and a sharp, nutty flavor. It is made from raw cow's milk and aged 18 months in caves. It pairs well with grapes, figs, cured meats, breadsticks, strong beer, and wine.
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Dry Jack is very hard, slightly sharp, and pleasantly nutty. It is made by the Vella Cheese Company in Northern California. The cheese begins as a traditional Monterey Jack, then it is aged another 7 to 10 months. The older the aging, the more intense the flavor. This cheese pairs well with fruit and wine, is excellent shaved over pasta, and also goes well with salads.
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Pecorino is a type of Italian cheese always made from sheep's' milk. In fact, the word pecorino derives from the Italian word pecora meaning "sheep." The flavor is sharp, nutty, and herbaceous. It's also quite salty, so be careful about how much extra salt you add to whatever you are cooking. Most pecorino is produced on the Italian island of Sardinia, though its production is also allowed in Tuscany, Sicily, and a few other areas.
There are seven types of Pecorino, all named after their place of origin; Pecorino Romano is the most common. A variant from southern Italy is pecorino pepato, which means literally "peppered pecorino," to which black peppercorns are added. The more matured cheeses, called stagionato (meaning "seasoned" or "aged") are harder but still crumbly in texture. Semi-stagionato and fresco, meaning "fresh," have a softer texture and milder, creamier taste.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
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Reggianito, a cow's milk cheese aged for about six months, is made in Argentina and was developed by Italian farmers who migrated to Argentina and missed the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese from Italy. Reggianito, the Spanish diminutive of Reggiano, refers to the smaller-sized wheels of cheese made in Argentina versus the large drums of Reggiano made in Italy.
Reggianito has a smooth texture that can be slightly rubbery, although it is hard enough to grate. The flavor is mild and fruity.