Parmesan cheese is one of my favorite recipe ingredients. First and foremost I love it freshly grated on pasta; but I also incorporate it in lots of my recipes.
Parmesan is nutritious. Who knew? Turns out that as cheeses go, it's one of the most nutritious. According to an article by Mike at TheIronYou.com, Parmesan has "high protein content, easy digestibility and concentrations of calcium and vitamins." His article includes a wealth of information about this yummy cheese, so check it out if you want to learn more.
To buy or grate your own? Of course, you can purchase pre-shredded or grated Parmesan cheese; but it is so much better and cheaper when you freshly grate your own. If you buy it pre-grated, get the fresh cheese in the deli or refrigerated section of the grocery store. Stay away--COMPLETELY AWAY--from the dried grated Parmesan that comes in the cardboard tube container. It has no flavor (tastes like saw dust to me) and is not suitable for many any recipes.
Buy in quantity to save money. I usually purchase a big piece of Parmesan at Sam's or Costco--somewhere around a 1-1/2 pound wedge. They have reasonably good cheese. Probably not the best to a cheese connoisseur, but good enough for me. Of course, you can also buy Parmesan at the grocery store; or go, to a good cheese shop if you want the very best.
This is the 1-1/2 pound wedge of Parmesan that I recently purchased at Sam's:
Here are the 3 methods I use for grating Parmesan.
GRATING METHOD #1: Use a Microplane (for small quantities)
Microplanes are one of my most-used kitchen gadgets. They're ideal for grating hard cheeses, but also garlic, fresh ginger, & whole nutmeg. They're also great for zesting citrus.
The Microplane is easy to use, simply run the cheese along the surface and fine shreds of cheese fall out the other side. This is the method I use for adding Parmesan to pasta. I put a Microplane and piece of cheese on a plate and put it on the table for everyone to use to freshly grate cheese onto their pasta.
This is my preferred method for grating small amounts of fresh Parmesan.
GRATING METHOD #2: Use a Box Grater (for medium quantities)
I use a box grater when I need 1-2 cups of grated Parmesan to incorporate into a recipe (if I don't have some in my freezer as explain in Method #3 below). For Parmesan, I use the side of the box grater with the smaller holes.
GRATING METHOD #3: Use a Food Processor (for large quantities)
This is my personal favorite. When I need more than a cup or two of grated Parmesan, it's time to get out the food processor. I usually buy a big wedge of cheese, grate the entire thing in the food processor, and then freeze it to have ready to add to recipes. This is SO convenient to have on hand. When it's getting cooked into recipes, it doesn't need to be freshly grated. The advance prep saves time and money.
Here's how I do it.
With a heavy knife, chop the Parmesan into 1 to 1-1/2 inch pieces.
Add the pieces to the bowl of the food processor fitted with the regular metal blade. Don't overfill the bowl. For a 1-1/2 pound wedge of cheese, I process half of it at a time.
Turn on the food processor and let it run until the cheese is grated into the desired texture. The time required can vary, depending on the hardness of the cheese. Often the edges are harder and require extra processing. Stop and check it periodically; if there are still some chunky bits, keep processing. This batch of Parmesan took about 2-3 minutes of processing to get the desired texture; I've had it take as long as 5 minutes before. Mine is processed to the size/texture that you commonly see in the Parmesan shakers on the tables at pizza joints.
Freeze it for ready-made convenience.
I add the grated Parmesan to 1/2 pint (1 cup) mason jars (Walmart has great prices on these). This is a convenient size to pull out of the freezer as needed. The cheese can all be frozen in one container, but then you'll be digging out the frozen quantities you want for a recipe. I usually keep one jar in the fridge to have on hand and put the rest in the freezer until needed. These 1-cup jars are perfect for the way I cook. You can also serve the cheese from these jars--great to have on hand to sprinkle on take-out pizza. If you have a canning funnel, they make it really easy to fill the jars. I add these white plastic lids for convenient use and reuse (also available at Walmart with canning supplies).
The 1-1/2 pound wedge of Parmesan yielded 6 1-cup jars of grated cheese. If you don't have jars, you can also freeze the grated cheese in Ziploc freezer bags.
I label and date my jars before putting them in the freezer. I've started using painter's tape for labeling, because it doesn't leave behind a sticky residue when I remove it like other labels I've used.
I love the convenience of having these jars of grated cheese in my freezer.
SO MANY WAYS TO USE GRATED PARMESAN Now that I have all of this grated cheese in my freezer there are all kinds of things I can make.
Here are some of my recipes from previous posts that use grated Parmesan cheese.
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