Twelve Pairings for Parmigiano

Authentic Parmigiano Reggiano is one of the greatest inventions. For me, it’s always been the cashmere socks of the cheese case. It can dress up anything, even an egg. I like it plain, too, to suck on after a good meal. Those caramel notes are all the sweetness I need, and I like the way Parm crumbles like rock candy.

One thing I almost never do is grate Parm. For me, it diffuses the flavor. I like to break off hunks and stir them into polenta or use a vegetable peeler to shave hefty tendrils over fresh greens. When I serve Parm to guests, I set it out with a pointy knife and encourage people to stab and carve – it taps into that primal nerve.

Because Parm has turned into the whip of too many sloppy pasta dishes, I offer you a dozen new pathways to bliss. Just be sure to get authentic Parm, preferably cut fresh from the wheel – not the stuff in the green can.

1. Truffle Honey

When I cook with friends, I love to set out Parm and truffle honey on the kitchen table. It’s great alongside Prosecco, and the combination is one of those flavor revelations you never forget. Any light honey will do, but a fragrant honey (try cranberry) elevates the experience in unimaginable ways.

2. Sautéed Greens

It only takes a few seconds to wilt spinach or dandelion greens in a hot fry pan with a little olive oil. When the leaves are still bright, plate them and add a dash of good balsamic, a crank of black pepper, and some shaved Parm. For a meal, top the greens with a poached egg and serve with toast.

3. Soft Boiled Eggs

For breakfast, peel a softie and slice it open over two toasted baguette rounds, then top with shaved Parm and a pinch of sea salt or truffle salt. This is a staple in our house. With a side salad, it becomes lunch.

4. Tomato Bruschetta

For an easy appetizer, macerate ripe tomatoes, chopped garlic, fresh basil, and olive oil. Ladle the mixture onto well-browned baguette rounds. Top with…I don’t have to say it.

5. Roasted Garlic

I love to rub down grilled baguette halves with leftover roasted garlic. With a drizzle of olive oil and a nice layer of Parm, you can wrap the whole thing in foil and let the mess meld while you prepare mussels or grilled chops.

6. Stone Fruit

Fruit brings out the sweetness in cheese. For a rustic dessert, set out a wedge of Parm and a bowl of ripe apricots or peaches. Almonds and honey are elegant sides.

7. Dates

Look for plump Medjool dates. Pit them and stuff them with shards of Parm – add a Marcona almond if you want crunch. You can bake these for a few minutes at 300 degrees or serve them room temp. Pop the champagne.

8. Mushroom Toasts

This is my favorite fall supper: wild mushrooms sautéed with garlic, butter, and white wine served open-face on whole wheat toast. Use a variety of mushrooms and finish with a squeeze of lemon, minced parsley, and lots of Parm. Sparkly is a must.

9. Grits

I love the rustic combination of stone ground grits and sweet, nutty Parm. For breakfast or dinner, serve heaping bowls dotted with butter, ground pepper, and crumbled Parm. For a meal, add shrimp, basil, and oven-baked cherry tomatoes.

10. Fresh Herb Salad

The strong flavors in Parm compliment garden herbs, which can be tossed with fresh lemon juice, olive oil and sea salt for a simple salad. Try mixing fresh greens with fistfuls of basil, chives, thyme, parsley, and nasturtiums.

11. Spirits

Before dinner: sparkling wine. After dinner: a medium to full-bodied red, or amantillado sherry.

12. Dark Beer

Try imperial stout and black mission figs. For a wintery affair, set out a dish of unshelled walnuts and pecans, and let people sip, nibble, and crack.

For more Parm posts, visit Madame Fromage.