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Generic parmesan cheese is a family of hard grating cheeses made from cow's milk and inspired by the original Parmesan or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese from Parma, Italy. They are generally pale yellow in color, and usually used grated on dishes like spaghetti, Caesar salad, and pizza.
Within the European Union, the term Parmesan may only be used, by law, to refer to Parmigiano-Reggiano itself, which must be made in a restricted geographic area, using stringently defined methods. In many areas outside Europe, the name "Parmesan" has become genericized, and may denote any of a number of hard Italian-style grating cheeses, often commercialized under names intended to evoke the original: Parmesan, Parmigiana, Parmesana, Parmabon, Real Parma, Parmezan, Parmezano, Reggianito. After the European ruling that "parmesan" could not be used as a generic name, Kraft renamed its grated cheese "Pamesello" in Europe.
Generic parmesans may be legally defined in various jurisdictions.
In the United States, the Code of Federal Regulations includes a Standard of Identity for "Parmesan and reggiano cheese". This defines both aspects of the production process and of the final result. In particular, parmesan must be made of cow's milk, cured for 10 months or more, contain no more than 32% water, and have no less than 32% milkfat in its solids.
Flavor and uses
Kraft Foods is a major North American producer of generic parmesan and has been selling it since 1945. As parmesan is a common seasoning for pizzas and pastas, many major pizza chains such as Pizza Hut offer it for free.
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