Ina Garten Says This Is The Only 'Real' Parmesan Cheese

Ina Garten, better known as the "Barefoot Contessa," knows a thing or two when it comes to prepping a dinner everyone will love. One of her all-time favorites, her "Parmesan Chicken," is an herb-breaded chicken breast, topped with a light arugula salad, lemony dressing and of course, Parmesan (via Food Network Magazine). It's perfect for when you're on a time crunch, too, since it takes only about 30 minutes to put together.

The recipe also doesn't call for plenty of ingredients — many of them you might already have in your kitchen, like flour, eggs, dry bread crumbs, lemon zest, unsalted butter, and a few frozen chicken breasts from the freezer. You'll most likely have to make a trip to the grocery store for the recipe's fresh thyme and Parmesan cheese. However, you shouldn't pick up just any old cheese. Garten told Food Network Magazine that there's "only one real Parmesan cheese," and it might not be what you think.

Parmigiano-Reggiano is the go-to cheese aged to perfection

According to Garten, Parmigiano-Reggiano is the real deal. It's a hard, dry cheese that's typically aged at least two years with a protective seal of approval sticker to prove it. Parmigiano-Reggiano is also known to be called "the King of Cheeses," and it involves quite the criteria. 

For a cheese to be considered Parmigiano-Reggiano (vs. a regular Parmesan), it must be produced in Italy, in either Bologna, Mantua, or Parma (hence where the cheese originally got its name). In fact, an EU court was very clear that only cheeses produced in these particular provinces may be officially labeled as Parmigiano-Reggiano. Furthermore, the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium is taking the issue of misrepresented cheese so seriously that it is experimenting with using tracking devices in cheese rinds.

The next time you find yourself with a recipe that calls for Parmesan, make sure you consider the one and only Parmesan cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano. Look for that label and give it a good inspection, as there are many imitation cheeses out there. And remember, Garten wouldn't lead you wrong!