Parmesan cheese is an essential, if not major ingredient in many of my favorite dishes. Spaghetti, or any kind of pasta, really, is but a pale shadow of what it could be without Parmesan. Of course, Fettuccine Alfredo is nothing without Parmesan. Not very Alfredo at all. Of course, this demand for Parmesan has led me to look for the very best deals. The tiny 100 gram containers they sell at most grocery stores are completely inadequate when your recipes call for cups of the stuff. A few years ago, I discovered the Grande Grated Parmesan Cheese at Costco.
The first thing I looked at was the price. It has varied in the last few years, but has been consistently around $13.99 per kilogram – that’s the size of the bag. That translates to $1.39 per 100 grams, no taxes, which is considerably cheaper than your grocery store will charge, which is usually anywhere from $3 to $5 per 100 grams. Nice margins.
Alright, so the price is right. But what about the cheese itself? The good news is that it smells like it should, especially when warmed on food, or in the microwave. No one in the vicinity can deny you’re eating Parmesan.
When used in a recipe, or simply sprinkled generously on pasta, the taste is very acceptable and a worthy substitute for imported Italian Parmesan, for the price, but if you’re planning anything fancier, I’d get the real stuff. One of the reasons for this can be found on the ingredients list. See below.
The ingredients of Grande’s Grated Parmesan Cheese are as follows:
- Pasteurized Milk – good start
- Salt – It’s Parmesan, after all
- Powdered Cellulose – What?
- Modified Milk Ingredients
- Microbial Enzyme
- Bacterial Culture
As you can see, most of the ingredients sound good, except for one, which is powdered cellulose. It is included in there to act as an anti-caking agent, to prevent the grated cheese from clumping. It’s not bad for you, but it’s the third ingredient in this grated cheese. There’s a lot of it in there. Just to be clear, cellulose is mainly used to make paper and cardboard, and has a million other industrial uses, including to make smokeless gunpowder. You can read more about cellulose here. I’m pretty certain that the original Parmigiano-Reggiano doesn’t include this foreign ingredient. If you eat a big spoonful of Grande’s Grated Parmesan, you’ll find that it tastes quite powdery, a texture that disappears when mixed with other ingredients in a recipe.
As you can see by the nutrition facts sheet, this Parmesan is also quite salty, which is normal – you definitely won’t need to add salt to any recipe in which you include it!
In conclusion, the Grande Grated Parmesan Cheese is great when cooking, or sprinkled on pasta. It has a rich Parmesan flavor, If you’re going to use it in any other way, I would highly recommend purchasing the real Parmigiano, which is also available at Costco, for something around $25 a kilogram. This is especially true if you want to serve it on salad, or in any application that requires more substance than a finely-ground cheese. This Parmesan is made entirely in Canada, from 100% Canadian milk, which is great, but I can’t help but think they’re abusing the appellation ‘Parmesan’. It should more probably be called ‘Parmesan-style grated cheese’. But eh, I’m no expert, and I like both the taste and price!