When it comes to origin and tradition, the Italians know the value of their culinary heritage with each region celebrating the produce its rightly famous for.
From the heart of Northern Italy's Pianura Padana, or Po Valley region, heralds Grana Padano a cheese like no other. Developed by Benedictine monks nearly 1,000 years ago as an ingenious way of preserving surplus milk, this savoury hard cheese is still made using traditional methods handed down over generaions. Complex and fragrant, with a subtle, salty tang, its name reflects the distinctive grainy texture that develops as it matures.
Authentic Grana Padano is easy to spot. Only those cheeses that pass the Grana Padano Protection Consortium's strict quality tests are fire branded with its unique diamond-shaped mark. This signifies the cheese's quality and coveted Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status: quite simply, if the PDO branding isn't on the rind or the packaging, it's not Grana Padano.
All wheels of Grana Padano have to age a minimum of 9 months to over 20 months for the very finest Riserva. Each vintage has its own characteristics - a young Grana Padano aged between 9 and 16 months is mild in taste and pale yellow, perfect as a topping for meats and vegetables or used as shavings on a fresh salad or beef carpaccio. Over 16 months, the cheese has a soft, straw-yellow colour, grainier consistency and a stronger tangy taste which makes this vintage ideal for grating into dishes. For something special to serve as part of a luxurious cheese-board with nuts, fruits and cnutneys or "mostarde", Grana Padano "Riserva" (aged over 20 months) features a distinct grainy texture with a clear flaky structure, and a dark straw-yellow colour.
If you're catering for different diets this festive season, Grana Padano is a wise choice and perfect in a balanced diet. It's naturally lactose-free due to the characteristics of the production and the long ageing and because it's made from partially skimmed milk (it takes 15 litres of naturally partially-skimmed milk to produce 1kg of Grana Padano PDO), it's lower in fat than many of Italy's other famous cheeses. Packed with protein, too, and it's a natural source of zinc, calcium (50g of Grana Padano PDO provides 600mg of calcium) and other important minerals, plus Vitamins A, B2 and B12, making this sensational-tasting cheese a truly guilt-free pleasure.
With the festive season now in full swing, if you're hosting a drinks party, entertaining friends or spending quality time with family, share the love of good food with these recipes from Grana Padano to help you glide through Christmas and the New Year.
Cynar Spritz Served With Focaccia Garnished With Potatoes, Onions and Grana Padano Riserva
Chick Pea, Beet And Grana Padano Hummus, Crusty Bread - Served With Moscow Mule
Gin Tonic And Stuffed Ascoli Olives With Grana Padano
For more about Grana Padano and everyday recipes to enjoy visit granapadano.it
Savoury Pumpkin Grana Padano Cupcakes
250g all-purpose flour
150g Grana Padano
250ml whole milk
1 bunch rosemary
Extra virgin olive oil
½ packet of yeast for savoury baking
Cut the pumpkin into chunks and cook it in a non-stick pan with chopped shallot, rosemary and a drizzle of extra virgin oil. Purée the cooked pumpkin, transfer it to a bowl and add a pinch of salt, beaten eggs, the flour and yeast, sifted, 50g of finely grated Grana Padano and 50ml of milk, stirring together well until the mixture is soft and creamy. Fill the muffin tins 2/3 o the way and bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for 20-25 minutes. In the meantime, prepare the topping by bringing 200ml of milk almost to a boil, remove from the heat, add 100g of grated Grana Padano and stir well until the mixture is creamy, soft and smooth. Serve the cupcakes topped with the creamy Grana Padano topping and fresh herbs.
Mini Smoked Salmon And Grana Padano 'Gatto' (Pies)
1tbsp olive oil
200g Fior di Latte mozzarella, chopped
100g Grana Padano Riserva, grated
500g potato (or 400g pre-prepared mashed potatoes)
100ml whole milk
A pinch of nutmeg
150g smoked salmon, chopped
Boil the potatoes in salted walter for around 10-15 minutes until soft and then drain the water and mash them with the mil,. Then add half the Grana Padano and nutmeg to make a smooth purée. Grease 12 small oven-proof bowls or ramekins with half the butter and line them completely with half the breadcrumbs. Spread half (or more) of the mashed potato in to the bowls and then add the mozzarella, Grana Padano and smoked salmon (keep some for decoration). Top with the remaining mashed potatoes then even it out so that the surface is nice and flat. Sprinkle the bowls with the rest of the breadcrumbs and add a little butter to the top of the breadcrumbs to help the breadcrumbs brown. Bake in an oven (at 180°C) for about 10 minutes. Top with the remaining fresh smoked salmon and chopped chives to serve.
Serves 12 Portions - 6 People
Puff Pastry Christmas Trees with Ham and Grana Padano
1 roll of rectangular puff pastry
100g Grana Padano, grated
Roll out the puff pastry and sprinkle with half the grated Grana Padano. Lay the slices of ham on the top and cut lots of strips, each 2cm thick, using a knife. Fold the strips back and forward, then secure with a skewer to form a Christmas tree shape, placing them on an oven tray covered in baking paper. Brush the trees with a beaten egg, spring with grated Grana Padano and cook in a pre-heated oven at 180°C for 15 minutes until baked and golden brown. Leave to cool slightly and serve as a Christmas starter.