Is it Parmesan or Parmigiano?

I must admit, we take the cooking and food vocabulary that we use and hear every day for granted. At least, that's the case for me. And so it is for Parmesan as in Parmesan Cheese.

I was playing around with a recipe the other day that called for Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. And I had to pause with a brief pondering question "what's the difference between Parmesan and Parmigiano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese"?

It occured to me that I've been buying and using these cheeses for years and I've never stopped to understand the difference. In fact, I've probably been mistaken in my assumption that these are just different names for the same cheese.

Well, to some extent, that may be true, but it's a bit more complicated than that as I've come to learn.

OK, some of you (maybe many of you) are probably saying at this point, this one's pretty obvious. Of course, Parmesan is simply the French version of Parmigiano which is Italian. So are these just the French and Italian language equivalents for the same cheese? Not so fast.

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