I know better. I really do. Grating Parmigiano-Reggiano—the king of Italian cheese—just before using it, such as directly onto bowls of steaming pasta, is the ideal way to maximize the deliciously nutty, sweet-salty essence of this marvelous cheese. But it’s one of those last minute tasks that can put me over the edge when I’m trying to get dinner on the table before we’re all too tired to eat.
When I’m shopping in a store that carries real imported Parmigiano-Reggiano—you can identify it instantly by the letters of its name imbedded in the rind, so if the rind isn’t part of a wedge, don’t buy it—and I spy containers of the cheese pre-grated, I succumb to convenience. But I feel as if I’m committing a sacrilege.
With some trepidation, I recently asked Lou DiPalo, proprietor of DiPalo Fine Foods in New York City’s Little Italy, and a passionate lover of Italian cheese, about the pre-grated stuff. As expected, he doesn’t endorse the practice. “It rapidly deteriorates once it’s grated,” he explained. If you still want to purchase it grated, however, he advised that you buy it where you can actually watch it being done. Parmigiano can demand such a high price, the temptation is huge to pass off cheaper alternatives.
DiPalo also cautioned against storing your grated Parmigiano in your home freezer. “It’s going to change in character,” he said. “Better to keep it in the fridge.”