09 February 2017

Feed: Grate Stuff – Pieve Roffeno’s Perfect Parmesan


  • The New York Times reports on the trend for micro kitchens amongst millennials
  • Shunning larger kitchen spaces, this trend is about smaller, smarter spaces and appliances, to leave more room for living and entertaining
  • Frequent dining out, the booming world of posh-nosh delivery and supermarket retail patterns (increased visits with decreased volume of sales per visit) have all contributed to the trend

As a DOC producer, in order to make bona fide parmesan, you have to comply with strict guidelines, from dimension, thickness of the crust, texture and body to the all-important factor: geographical location. So, to see how proper parmesan’s made, we took a trip up the hills just outside Bologna to pay a visit to the fabled Pieve Roffeno dairy.

A cooperative of five dairy farmers, Pieve Roffeno uses milk from free-roaming mountain cows collected twice a day, seven days a week, to make its high-quality batches of parmesan and ricotta. Morning milk and evening milk are distinctively different, though, according to the cheesemakers, and are mixed together for optimum results.

The hybrid milk is then steam-heated evenly in two stainless-steel cone-shaped vats. Each holds an impressive thousand litres of milk, the equivalent of 50kg of cheese, and the dairy makes eight to 12 of these cheeses a day. The natural rennet and heat then separate the curds and whey, ready to be stirred and collected in muslin once fully coagulated. Laid to drain for three days and turned regularly to perfect the shape, the parmesan is then sealed and branded in a perforated metal mould with its own distinctive markings. So, should you fancy tracing your cheese back to the dairy, vat and cow, it’s well within the realms of possibility.


The parmesan in metal moulds


Saturated for 28 days in brine made with Naples salt, the parmesan is then matured for any time between 18 months and three years, depending on the desired depth of flavour. Unsurprisingly, the highlight of our short stay in Bologna was sampling exactly what three years of work and maturing really tasted like. Served with Pieve Roffeno’s very own Parma ham and salami, it went down a treat.


Wheels of parmesan line the cathedral-like space

To find out more about the history of parmesan, DOC guidelines and dairy tours, visit the Parmigiano Reggiano website here.