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 Grana Padano: The cheese wheel  that keeps on giving

Low fat, high protein and with plenty of flavor, it is an Italian treasure that keeps giving, no matter how much people splinter away.

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photos: at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival 2013, Miami
























By Simone Zarmati Diament

Place a half wheel of Grana Padano cheese on a table with a chipping knife, either in the center of a room or in the far corner of  a room full of guests, and you will notice that everybody converges to where the cheese is.  And this for the duration of the party, being it day or night.   Low fat, high protein and with plenty of flavor, it is the cheese that keeps giving, no matter how much people splinter away.

Like an academician with lots of letters behind his or her name,  Grana Padano  always comes with the letters  DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta, Protected Designation of Origin) and DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata, Controlled Designation of Origin) fire-branded in its yellow rind.    The name “Grana” refers to the grainy and crumbly texture of the cheese and “Padano” refers to its origin in the Po River Valley (“Pianura Padana” in Italian).

A wheel of Grana Padano is cylindrical, weighs 53 to 88 lbs with a hard white or straw yellow rind fire-branded with the logo, name and all the letters of guarantee. Inside, the texture is solid, granular and very aromatic with almond characteristics and a savory and mainly salty.

Grana Padano is one of the world's first hard cheeses, created nearly 900 years ago by the Cistercian monks of Chiaravalle Abbey, founded in 1135 near Milan, who used ripened cheese as a way of preserving surplus milk. By the year 1477, it was already regarded as one of the most famous cheeses of Italy.   Based in northern Italy, the Consortium for the Protection of Grana Padano cheese was founded in 1954 in an effort to protect and promote the Grana Padano brand throughout the world. Today this Consortium encompasses 147 Grana Padano producers, as well as many maturers and retailers that produce over four million wheels per year, making Grana Padano the most widely sold DOP and DOC cheese in the world.


How Grana Padano is made


Grana Padano is a semifat hard cheese produced with partly skimmed, raw cows’ milk.  It is sold in three different ripening stages:

  • "Grana Padano" (9 to 16 months): texture still creamy, only slightly grainy
  • "Grana Padano oltre 16 mesi" (over 16 months): crumblier texture, more pronounced taste
  • "Grana Padano Riserva" (over 20 months): grainy, crumbly and full flavored


This cheese from the Po Valley which is one of Italy’s cherished treasures is actually good for you!

  • 1 oz. = 120 calories and no carbs!
  • It is lactose-free and easily digested
  • High in calcium (1 oz. provides over 350 mg of calcium)
  • 1 oz. of cheese contains more proteins than 12 oz. of milk, or 1 oz. of beef, chicken, fish or ½ cup of beans.


One of my favorite pauses at Italian wine tastings is the Grana Padano cheese with prosciutto, nuts, grapes, or any dried fruit.  It pairs with a fine Italian Brut or Collio Bianco for white; from a Brunello to a Nero Davola for red. For a longer aged (over two years) Grana Padano, you can pair it with a Barolo, a Vin Santo or any fortified wine.


  • On its own with dried fruit and nuts.
  • In salads like Grana Padano, Watercress, Fig and Walnut Salad; with slivered raw artichoke hearts
  • With eggs, grilled vegetables, pastas, seafood, risotto, prosciutto-wrapped chicken breasts stuffed with Grana Padano and even desserts like Strawberries with Grana Padano and Honey

Strawberries with Grana Padano and Honey

Serves 4


4 slices of Panettone

2/3 lb strawberries hulled

5 oz Grana Padano, coarsely grated

5 oz Dark chocolate 72% or 60% cacao, coarsely grated

2 Tbsp honey


Toast slices of Panettone and place on 4 plates. Halve each strawberry and place in equal mounds over the 4 slices of Panettone.  Sprinkle with grated Grana Padano and chocolate. Gently heat the honey to a runny consistence and pour over strawberries. Serve immediately