A semi-hard to hard well-known Italian cheese made from partially skimmed cow's milk processed during the spring, summer or fall. Parmesan cheese can be purchased as a young cheese or an aged cheese. The young cheese is aged at least 10 months to be sold in a block form, flaked, grated, or shredded. As a young cheese, it is not as flavorful nor as firm as the aged Parmesan., but still has had time to begin to develop a decent flavor. The mature Parmesan, which has aged from 18 months to 4 years, provides a sharp, salty, full-flavored cheese with a firm to hard texture, excellent for grating. Some of the well known aged Parmesan cheeses include Vecchio aged 18 to 24 months, Stavecchio aged 24 to 36 months, or Stravecchione aged 36 to 48 months. The American version of Parmesan is not as strong flavored or as crystalline textured as the Italian version. Several common Italian cheeses that can be substituted for Parmesan are Grana Padano, Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano.
To grate this cheese, run a piece of cheese over the holes in a handheld grater or use a rotary cheese grater. To shave, run a vegetable peeler over a piece of Parmesan, paring off paper-thin sheets. After using all of the cheese, save the rind for use in flavoring sauces, soups or marinades. To store, wrap the cheese in foil and store it in the driest section of the refrigerator. If it dries out, wrap the cheese with a moist paper towel and foil for a day. The cheese can remain stored for a month or so before the flavor deteriorates rapidly.