Parmesan cheese is a variety of cheese inspired by Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese from Parma, Italy. Its color is pale yellow, and it is popularly used as a seasoning added to dishes like spaghetti, Caesar salad and pizza.
Parmesan cheese is prized for its flavor, which is rich in umami sensations. Its use in home cooking throughout the Western world is generally as a condiment with other prepared food dishes, rather than being eaten by itself as in traditional European cheese plates. Kraft is a major North American producer of Parmesan and has been selling it since 1945.
Parmesan cheese (as produced by Kraft and many others) is a true cheese. Nevertheless, processed cheese foods can be found that are flavored to attempt to match the taste of Parmigiano-Reggiano (or at least Parmesan).
Relationship to Parmigiano cheese
Parmesan cheese can be used as a substitute for "fancy" Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. While Parmesan is inspired by Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, they are not always the same. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese must satisfy very specific requirements in order to be marketed and sold under that name; there are no such requirements for Parmesan (in most markets). Within the European Union, however the name "Parmesan" by law may only be used to describe Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; no other jurisdictions are known to have such legal restrictions.
Therefore, in the European Union, the word "Parmesan" legally serves as a synonym for "Parmigiano-Reggiano" and always follows its strict requirements. Outside of the European Union, "Parmesan" is a broad category of cheese that tastes similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano, and indeed Parmigiano-Reggiano could even be described as a style of Parmesan, despite being the original Parmesan cheese.
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