Parrano is a funny little cheese, but I mean that in the best of ways: It tastes a lot like parmesan, but it’s soft and kind of melty. The name sounds Italian – but it’s made in Holland.
So what’s the deal with this stuff?
Officially, Parrano is a Gouda-style cheese, made by Uniekaas, a well-established Dutch cheesemaker.
I guess they got tired of making the same old (but delicious) Dutch cheeses, because a while back, they got the idea to make a regular cows’-milk gouda and age it for five months, to give it a sort of Italian flavor. (Regular young gouda cheeses age for as little as one month; most authentic parmesan, or parmigiano reggiano, is aged at least 24 months.)
So what they got is a hybrid: It’s nutty, a little bit sweet, and has a bit of the sharpness of a good parmesan. (If it had the hard, crumbly texture of parmesan you’d swear that’s what you were eating.) But, like a young Gouda, it’s smooth, soft and melts well; it doesn’t get stringy or hard like parmesan does when it is heated.
No wonder they call it “the Dutch cheese that thinks it’s Italian.” (The name, by the way, comes from an Italian municipality in Umbria, in the central portion of Italy.)
I like Parrano because it’s so versatile, and brings that savory parmesan flavor to dishes that parmesan doesn’t really work in – things like grilled cheese sandwiches, or creamy Alfredo sauce, or even instead of mozzarella on a pizza or in a calzone. It also makes a good addition to a cheese tray and goes equally well with beer and wine. What’s not to like?