Parmesan, or Parmigiano-Reggiano as it's known in Italian, is a yellow-ish, hard cow's milk cheese from northern Italy. It has protected origin status (DOP), which means it can only be made in Emilia-Romagna. Uses
It is best to buy parmesan in blocks rather than ready-grated as it can start to lose its flavour more quickly.
Parmesan adds a fantastic flavour boost when grated over pasta dishes, risottos, soups and stews, or included in pasta fillings and bread doughs. Alternatively, try adding a few parmesan shavings to salads and vegetable dishes, or serving it as part of a cheese selection with grapes and dried figs. In Italy they don't even let the rind go to waste. After a good scrub to remove the waxy coating, it is added to soups or stews to give them more depth and body.
Wrap parmesan in waxed paper or foil and store in a plastic box in the fridge to keep the cheesy smell away from other foods. Cling film will make it sweat. It also freezes well.
Other hard cheeses such as grana padano sometimes get confused with parmesan as they have a similar texture and taste; parmesan substitutes are also being made in other countries. However, these cheeses do not have quite the same rich flavour or granular texture. You can tell if your parmesan is authentic by having a look at the rind, which should be stamped with 'parmiggiano-reggiano'.