The most important etiquette rules on how to serve and eat Parmesan. Tips to be the ideal host or the perfect guest at the dining table.

stravecchio parmesan

What Parmesan etiquette is

Parmesan etiquette is the set of rules to properly serve and eat Parmesan cheese. Such rules help avoid behaviors that can disrespect hosts or guests, or make you look unpolite.

If you are hosting, follow Parmesan etiquette to serve it to your guests appropriately.

If you are a guest, respect the etiquette rules to properly eat and enjoy it.

What you should know about Parmesan

Parmesan is an Italian hard cheese. Inside the European Union (EU), Parmesan is a protected name. It can be used only for Parmigiano Reggiano.

Outside of the EU, it is legal to use “parmesan” to refer to similar cheeses. However, such cheeses do not have to comply with the strict quality regulations of the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium. Thus, such cheeses are often cheaper, lower-quality versions of the original cheese.

Parmesan is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk. It goes through an aging process that lasts for at least 12 months. It has a granular texture and it is dark or golden yellow in color. 

How To Serve And Eat Parmesan. The Top Etiquette Tips.
How to cook Parmesan. Best way to serve it. Parmesan wine and food pairings.

Etiquette tips to serve and eat Parmesan

1) How to store Parmesan

Only a full wheel of Parmesan can last long out of the fridge. 

You can keep an unopened chunk of Parmesan out of the fridge. Store it in a cool place. Away from direct light and sources of heat. However, do not keep it out longer than 3 to 5 days. Avoid storing it outside if the temperature is above 24°C (75°F).

After opening it, you should keep Parmesan in the fridge. Store it in a clean hemp or cotton cloth. Alternatively, wrap it in plastic. Or store it in a sealed container. An unopened chunk can last up to 7 to 9 months in the fridge. After opening it, you should store it for up to 1 or 2 months.

Store grated Parmesan in the fridge. Do not keep it longer than 1 or 2 weeks. If its color starts to darken, consume it immediately. 

You can store Parmesan in the freezer. If unopened, it can last up to 9 months to a year. If grated, it can last up to 2 to 4 months. 

Store dishes with cooked Parmesan in the fridge. They can last between 3 and 5 days. 

2) How to clean Parmesan

You do not need to wash Parmesan. 

Its crust is edible. However, it is too hard to eat. You can remove the crust before serving Parmesan. 

If you use the crust for cooking, wash it quickly under running water. 

3) How to cook Parmesan

It is common to grate Parmesan over dishes. Pasta. Rice and risotto. Soups. Salads. Flans and baked dishes. Add grated Parmesan to dishes immediately before serving. Alternatively, allow guests to add it to their liking directly at the table. 

If you bake dishes with Parmesan, there is no minimum recommended temperature. However, the cheese melts best above 120°C (248°F).

You can use the crust to cook. It is common to use crusts to add flavor to soups, broths, or sauces. After cooking, remove the crusts before serving.

4) How to serve & present Parmesan

Serve Parmesan at room temperature. Take it out of the fridge at least 1 or 2 hours before serving. 

Parmesan is great as an appetizer. It is common as a snack during pre-meal drinks. 

Perhaps the most elegant way to present it is in a large, intact section of a wheel. Such as a quarter or half a wheel. Serve it with a parmesan knife. Then, guests can help themselves and cut chunks off the main block. Another option is to serve Parmesan already cut into chunks. 

If you serve it grated, present it in a small cup or dedicated container. Present it with a teaspoon, so guests can add it to dishes to their liking.

You can include Parmesan in a cheese platter, served before dessert. It is best to arrange cheese in order, from the mildest to the strongest. Parmesan is usually one of the strongest, due to its aging, strong flavor, and texture. However, it is usually milder in flavor compared to Parmesan.

Before serving Parmesan, make sure it has not turned bad. Parmesan which is turning bad displays a darker color. It may look moldy or have a foul smell.

5) Food and wine to pair Parmesan with

Parmesan goes well with many dishes. Pasta. Rice and risotto. Pizza. Soup. Broth. 

You can add it to baked vegetables, flans, savory pies, and salads.

It goes well with eggs or meat. Parmesan is great with roastbeef or burgers. It is common to add Parmesan to raw or cured meat. Such as carpaccio or Bresaola. Adding it to fish recipes is not common, but not inappropriate.   

Parmesan pairs well with jams and honey. It tastes great with a few drops of Balsamic vinegar. You can pair it with fruit too. Apples. Pears. Grapes. Strawberries. Pomegranate. It goes well with nuts, such as walnuts and hazelnuts.

The ideal wine pairing depends on aging. Older Parmesan requires bolder wine.

6) How to eat Parmesan

The rind is edible but too hard to eat. Discard it or leave it on the serving dish.

Place a few chunks of Parmesan on your plate. Break them into smaller bite-sized chunks. Eat it by bringing one bite-size chunk to your mouth at a time. 

Eat Parmesan with your fingers. You should not eat it with a fork and knife due to its granular texture.

When Parmesan is served grated, you can add it to your dish. Use a serving teaspoon or fork to add it. It is not polite to add a large quantity. Do not add more than 2 or 3 spoons.

parmesan etiquette mistakes

Parmesan etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. More about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

Avoid the worst Parmesan etiquette mistakes. 

  • 9/10. Serving spoiled Parmesan.
  • 7/10. Eating Parmesan with a fork and a knife.
  • 5/10. Adding a large quantity of grated cheese to a dish.

Additional information for properly serving Parmesan

How many calories per serving?

Counting calories is important to stay healthy and to correctly plan a menu.

Parmesan contains about 400 calories per 100 grams. One teaspoon is usually 5 grams and contains 20 calories. An average chunk is around 20 grams and contains 80 calories.