There are plenty of different ways to enjoy Parmigiano Reggiano®, but the first thing most people think of using Parmigiano Reggiano on pasta. One of the things I love about pasta is that it’s fairly simple to make a great tasting dinner with just a few really tasty ingredients. Also, with the cooler weather this time of year, walking into a nice steamy kitchen where I’ve been boiling pasta feels warm and homey.

See the recipe

3 Ps Sandwich

This is an easy to put together, and truly tasty, picnic lunch. You can make the sandwiches an hour or two in advance so the oil has a chance to soak into the bread. The cheese-pepper spread is also very good on its own as a spread for bruschetta, as a pasta sauce, or added to a vegetable soup. Because it’s such a simple recipe, the quality of the ingredients is imperative. The same recipe made with mediocre cheese, pepper, oil and bread will be boring at best, bad at worst. On the other hand, with top grade raw materials, it’s seriously world class.

    Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (preferably a mellow oil, maybe from Liguria)
  • 2 ounces freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano (nearly 1 cup)
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste—try it with the new Zingerman’s 5-Star Black Pepper blend from Épices de Cru
  • 1 cup of fresh arugula leaves (loosely packed)
  • 2 ounces (2 slices) Prosciutto di Parma
  • 1 French baguette from the Bakehouse

    Procedure:

  1. Mix the oil, Parmigiano Reggiano and pepper ’til smooth.
  2. Split the baguette lengthwise.
  3. Spread the Parmigiano-pepper mixture onto the bread.
  4. Lay on the prosciutto and arugula, then the top slice of bread.

Eat and enjoy!

Salsa di Noci
Ligurian Walnut Sauce

Salsa di Noci is typically served on stuffed pasta. It’s great on toast too—I think of it as a savory Italian version of a peanut butter sandwich. You can vary the proportions of the nuts to your taste. And you can toast or not toast them. Toasting will deepen the flavor and darken the color. Untoasted, you’ll get a more delicate sauce. Either way it’s excellent.
Makes about 2 cups, enough to serve 4 to 6.

    Ingredients

  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and halved
  • 5 ounces walnut halves (1¼ cups)
  • 2 ounces hazelnuts (½ cup)
  • 1 ounce pine nuts (2 tablespoons), preferably Mediterranean
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, preferably Ligurian
  • 2 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano® (without rind), freshly grated
  • Coarse sea salt to taste

    Food processor method:

  • Finely chop the garlic in a food processor. Add the nuts and pulse until coarsely chopped. With the blade running, add the olive oil a little at a time to help process the nuts into a moderately smooth paste with the texture of chunky natural peanut butter. Add the Parmigiano Reggiano and process to bend. Add salt to taste.
  • Mortar and pestle method:

  • Slowly work the garlic and a few pinches of salt into a paste with a mortar and pestle. Working slowly, add a few of the nuts, crushing them into a paste each time before adding more. Add a little oil as you’re adding the nuts to moisten the mixture. Add more nuts and oil until the paste has the texture of chunky natural peanut butter. Add the Parmigiano Reggiano and blend well. Add salt to taste.

The sauce will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for 2 weeks, but be sure to bring it back to room temperature before you use it.

Ligurian Pesto

While there are thousands of ways to make pesto, this recipe is—from my experience—the closest you’ll get to the real thing. It’s made with a mortar and pestle, not in a food processor. (You’ll need a mortar with a diameter of at least 8 inches.) This pesto should look more like guacamole than most bottled pesto sauces, which are usually blade-chopped bits of basil suspended in so-so olive oil. The garlic is a key flavor contributor, but it won’t overwhelm everything else.
Makes ½ to ¾ cup, enough to serve 4 to 6

    Ingredients

  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • Pinch coarse sea salt
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and halved, center sprout removed if present
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, or more to taste, preferably Mediterranean
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, or more to taste
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, preferably Ligurian

    Procedure:

  1. Wash the basil and pat it dry (or if you’re prepared to be authentically Ligurian, wipe each leaf with a clean, slightly damp kitchen towel). Be sure the basil is dry so that you don’t add unwanted water to the sauce.
  2. If the leaves are large, tear them into smaller pieces—don’t slice them with a knife, which will cause the leaves to blacken.
  3. Start by putting a pinch of sea salt and a few basil leaves in the mortar. With a pestle, slowly crush the basil gently but firmly against the sides of the mortar. The leaves should gradually disintegrate as you move the pestle around in a circular motion.
  4. Continue this process, adding a few basil leaves at a time, until you’ve used them all. Add the garlic and mash it into the basil mixture. Add the pine nuts and mash them into a paste.
  5. Add the Parmigiano Reggiano and stir to combine. Add the olive oil slowly, stirring to make an almost opaque sauce with a creamy consistency.
  6. The sauce can be kept, covered, in the refrigerator for 2 weeks. Be sure to bring it back to room temperature and give it a good stir before using.
Parmigiano Reggiano
with Honey and Walnuts

If you’re at all like me in preferring cheese to sweets, here’s something to serve after dinner that combines the cheese course and dessert into a single delicious interlude. You can vary the honey if you like, but the cheese should be the best Parmigiano Reggiano you can put your hands on.

    Ingredients

  • 3 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1 tablespoon chestnut honey or other full-flavored honey
  • 2 tablespoons walnut halves, toasted

    Procedure:

  1. Break the Parmigiano Reggiano into bite-sized pieces. Don’t cut it into cubes with a knife. Part of the enjoyment of eating it this way is the rough texture and the odd shapes and sizes you’ll get by breaking it with a Parmesan knife.
  2. Arrange the cheese pieces on a serving dish. Drizzle the honey over the top, sprinkle on the walnut halves, and serve.