The qualities of a true Parmesan - rich, round flavor and the ability to melt with heat and become inseparable from the ingredients to which it is joined - are vested in a cheese that has no rivals: parmigiano-reggiano.
Marcella Hazan, Essentials of Italian Cooking
Have you been storing your precious wedge of Parmesan cheese in a plastic bag? The great Marcella Hazan would nod in disapproval. After spending your hard-earned cash on authentic parmigiano-reggiano, it would be a pity to spoil your cheese by storing it improperly.
Hazan, who spent her life teaching and writing about Italian food, offered plenty of tips on how to store Parmesan cheese in her book Essentials of Italian Cooking. First, you want to make sure you've purchased a quality wedge of cheese with the rind still attached. Inspect the rind to ensure it bears a dotted stamp with the words parmigiano-reggiano.
Here's how to store Parmesan cheese so it will stay fresh longer:
1. Wrap it in wax paper
I know what you're thinking: can I use parchment paper instead? While Hazan firmly recommends wax paper, parchment paper will do in a pinch (even though it's coated in food-grade silicone and not wax). The idea is to preserve the cheese's humidity and prevent it from drying out.
It's interesting to note that the Italian consortium that makes parmigiano-reggiano recommends wrapping the cheese in plastic. However, some cheese experts say plastic makes the cheese 'sweat' too much. If you avoid plastic, stick to wax paper.
2. Wrap it in aluminum foil
After wrapping your lovely wedge of Parmesan cheese in wax paper, you'll want to ensure you cover it completely in a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil. This will protect the cheese while allowing it to 'breathe.' Be sure every nook and cranny is sealed with foil.
3. Store it properly
Hazan recommends storing Parmesan cheese in the bottom of the refrigerator. It's best to keep it away from other foods to prevent it from absorbing their odors (I find the deli compartment in the fridge works great). The ideal storage temperate is between 39 to 46 degrees F (4 to 8 degrees C). Never freeze Parmesan cheese unless it has been previously ground. Don't forget to wrap the cheese tightly after every use!
MORE: Put all these great tips to good use by making this colorful arugula and tomato salad with shaved Parmesan cheese (pictured above).