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Grana Padano

hard cow's milk cheese

Grana Padano

Grana means 'grain' but also refers to a hard mature cheese with a grainy texture, aged between 9 and 16 months. It was invented by Cistercian monks at the Abbazia di Chiaravalle (Milan) in the 12th century, who were such successful cowherds that they had a huge surplus of milk. Wheels of grana were also easy to store and could be kept for longer than any other cheese.

The two main types of grana are Parmigiano-Reggiano and Grana Padano DOP, which has similar strict (but much wider) geographical restrictions, coming from a number of northern Italian provinces (see below).

The cheese is known by its distinctive diamond-shaped mark, branded on the wheels. It comes in three ages, increasing in strength, richness (and price) with age: Regular (aged between 9 and 16 months; Stagionato 16 mesi (over 16 months), and Riserva (over 20 months).

Emilia‑Romagna: Bologna (east of the Reno), Ferrara, Forlì-Cesena, Piacenza, Ravenna, Rimini

Lombardy: Lodi, Bergamo, Brescia, Como, Cremona, Mantova (to the north of the Po), Milan, Pavia, Sondrio, Lecco, Varese

Piedmont: Alessandria, Asti, Cuneo, Novara, Turin, Vercelli

Trentino: Trento

Veneto: Padua, Rovigo, Treviso, Venice, Verona, Vicenza

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Text © Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls

Images by: Tenaya Darlington