Good food is not just about flavour. It’s about texture and the texture of parmesan cheese is amazing. There’s no cheese like it. It’s got that incredible crystalline, nutty texture. And the flavour! It’s quite rich, but it’s got that flavour that you just crave. If you’d tasted it once, you just want to have it again, like truffle. If you have a really good fresh piece of parmesan, I could eat it all day, just on its own.
It’s very good for you as well – it’s a good source of phosphorus, and a very good source of protein and calcium. It’s amazingly concentrated - it takes 500 litres of milk to make one 35 kilo wheel of parmesan. The intensity of the flavour comes from that amount of milk and also because it’s aged for two years. It also has zero lactose so it’s fine to eat if you’re lactose intolerant.
It takes 500 litres of milk and two years to make one 35 kilo wheel of parmesan
The salt levels aren’t as bad as people think and it’s got a lot of good enzymes. It’s also full of umami (the fifth ‘savoury’ taste after salt, sweet, sour and bitter) – that’s what gets your tastebuds going. It gets you salivating! In fact, it’s got one of the highest levels of umami of any food. It’s got all those things going for it.
I love parmesan in risotto - it’s perfect. I mean, it’s nice on pasta, but in risotto it takes on a life of its own because it melts into it. My favourite recipe at the moment – we get these amazing red peppers and we roast them until they’re completely charred. Take the skin off, then we make a white risotto with celery, onion and carnaroli rice, add a little bit of tomato, then we add the roasted peppers which have that slightly smoky taste, then we add fresh basil, then butter and parmesan. The parmesan with the pepper is absolutely amazing, it tastes so good! It’s a really great combination.
The reason for not putting parmesan on fish or seafood dishes is very simple. Parmesan is quite strong and fish is quite subtle. If you put parmesan on top of fish, all you’ll taste is parmesan and that’s it. If you want to put parmesan on a fish dish, well, it’s silly and the combination doesn’t even taste nice. If you did that in Italy, they would probably shoot you.