As a kid, instead of cartoons, I was fed a steady diet of cooking shows. By the time I was 12, I knew how to cook al dente pasta, roast poblano peppers and debone a fish. (Thanks, PBS). But one of the things that stood out the most from these shows wasn’t a skill, but a sponsor. I remember seeing commercials in between episodes for Grana Padano cheese.
Now, over a decade later, that name has stuck with me—but I never quite understood what it meant. Sure, I knew it was some fancy Italian cheese. But I didn’t know why it was so special.
By the way, here’s what to make with every type of cheese.
What is Grana Padano cheese?
Grana Padano is a crumbly Italian cheese produced in Italy’s Po Valley provinces. It’s made from unpasteurized cows’ milk in giant copper cauldrons, then aged for a minimum of nine months.
The requirements for producing Grana Padano are very specific. Each wheel is crafted the exact same way to yield the cheese’s unique flavor and grainy texture. And, the cheese’s branding makes it instantly recognizable. Authentic Grana Padano contains Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) signatures, such as diamond shapes on the rind and a fire brand.
Is Grana Padano the same as Parmesan?
Grana Padano falls into the same general category of Parmesan cheese—but we’re not talking about the stuff that comes out of a green shaker bottle. Traditional Italian Parmesan, (aka Parmigiano-Reggiano) is very similar to Grana Padano, but it actually has more regulations and specifications it has to meet. Mamma mia!
Ready to become a cheese connoisseur? Learn about more little-know cheese types you’ve been missing out on.
What does it taste like?
The taste of Grana Padano depends on how long it’s been aged. For instance, 9- to 16-month-old cheese has a creamy, slightly grainy texture. Once it hits the 16 month mark, the cheese develops a crumblier texture and more pronounced taste. And after 20 months, Grana Padano reaches its full flavor potential. The cheese is hard and naturally lactose-free.
Grana Padano tastes delicious on its own (hello, cheese plate), boasting a rich, slightly nutty flavor. It’s also the perfect accompaniment to pasta dishes or risotto.
Where can you buy it?
Since it’s produced at such a high level, Grana Padano can be hard to track down—especially if you live in a small city. Your best bet is a specialty cheese shop. You can also buy it online.
Substitute Grana Padano in these recipes that call for Parmesan.
I've been told by fellow partygoers that this recipe tastes exactly like a jalapeno popper. I like that it can be made without much fuss. —Ariane McAlpine, Penticton, British Columbia
Go to Recipe
Risotto is a creamy Italian rice dish. In this version, the rice is briefly sauteed, then slowly cooked in wine and seasonings. —Taste of Home
Simple ingredients make clever use of leftover chicken in an innovative dish any home cook would be proud to plate. I like to serve it with a side of fresh fruit. —Lisa Abbott, New Berlin, Wisconsin
This is such a wonderful appetizer! Your guests will be impressed. A golden exterior gives way to warm, melty cheese, making this perfect for sliced French bread or crackers. —Karen Grant, Tulare, California
Truly delicious! I love eggplant and have many recipes, but this one's my favorite. The cheeses and seasonings make the dish unforgettable. —Dottie Kilpatrick, Wilmington, North Carolina
I love chicken Parmesan and my family loves stromboli so one day I tried to combine the two using a few convenience products. It turned out better than I could have hoped. It's now a staple in our house. —Cyndy Gerken, Naples, Florida
This fettuccine recipe is such a simple side dish. With just four ingredients, it's ready in no time for a taste that's sure to please the entire family. —Sundra Hauck, Bogalusa, Lousiana
Every time that I make this cheesy baked spaghetti, I get requests for the recipe. It puts a different spin on pasta and is great for any meal. The leftovers, if there are any, also freeze well for a quick dinner later in the week. —Ruth Koberna, Brecksville, Ohio
For special occasions (like my husband’s birthday dinners), I mash potatoes with cream cheese, sour cream and Parmesan. It's divine comfort food. —Jo Ann Burrington, Osceola, Indiana
Nothing could be more simple than this side dish. Since it has just four ingredients, I assemble it in no time, then pop it into the oven for about 15 minutes. It turns out perfect every time. —Mary Ann Marino, West Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
We have a lot of zucchini on hand when it’s in season. This is a good and different way to use large amounts. —Lucia Johnson, Massena, New York
This loaf has a rugged, textured look that adds to its old-fashioned appeal. The mild Parmesan flavor nicely complements the zucchini, which adds bits of green color to every tender slice. —Christine Wilson, Sellersville, Pennsylvania
Here’s one of those no-fuss gnocchi recipes you can toss together and cook in one skillet. Ideal for a busy weeknight, it’s also good with crumbled Italian chicken sausage if you need to please meat lovers. —Julianne Meyers, Hinesville, Georgia
Dijon, Parmesan and a hint of horseradish give this toasty fish lots of flavor. The preparation is so easy, it takes just 5 to 7 minutes to get four servings ready for the oven. —Scott Schmidtke, Chicago, Illinois
You'll knock their socks off with this easy-to-prep side dish that's absolutely delicious. My favorite time to make it is when the zucchini is fresh out of the garden. —Sandi Guettler, Bay City, Michigan
A crunchy coating of cornflakes and Parmesan cheese adds delectable flavor to this zesty ranch chicken. The golden, crispy chicken is a mainstay dish I can always count on. —Launa Shoemaker, Landrum, South Carolina
The savory coating on this chicken has the satisfying flavor of Parmesan cheese. It's easy enough to be a family weekday meal yet impressive enough to serve to guests. When I make this baked parmesan crusted chicken for dinner, we never have leftovers. —Schelby Thompson, Camden Wyoming, Delaware
I enjoy making this baked ziti recipe for family and friends. It's easy to prepare, and I like to get creative with the sauce. Sometimes I might add my home-canned tomatoes, mushrooms or vegetables. —Elaine Anderson
New Galilee, Pennsylvania
Just thinking about this dish sparks my appetite. The ham and cheese rolled inside are a tasty surprise. Leftovers reheat well and make a perfect lunch with a green salad. —Jean Sherwood, Kenneth City, Florida
These filling and flavorful vegetarian stuffed peppers are an updated version of my mom's stuffed peppers, which were a favorite when I was growing up in upstate New York. Whenever I make them, I'm reminded of home. —Melissa McCabe, Long Beach, California
While growing up, I always wanted this meal on my birthday. Mother made the sauce from scratch, but now I use store-bought spaghetti sauce to save time. Replace the ground beef with Italian sausage if you want more spice. —Deb Morrison, Skiatook, Oklahoma
It always amazed me that this simple recipe could make potatoes taste so good. Mom liked to make them for Easter because they were more special than ordinary baked potatoes. —Ruth Seitz, Columbus Junction, Iowa
As a cattle rancher, my husband's a big fan of beef. For him to comment on a poultry dish is rare. But he always tells me, "I love this casserole!" I first tasted it at a potluck; now, I fix it for my family (we have a 3-year-old daughter) once or twice a month, and I'm asked to take it to most every get-together. —Rochelle Brownlee, Big Timber, Montana
My husband had a poor perception of healthy food until he tried this beefy casserole. The combination of pasta, oregano, mushrooms and green peppers makes it a favorite healthy pasta recipe
in our house. —Theresa Smith, Sheboygan, Wisconsin
Bacon, cream and Parmesan cheese make a classic pasta sauce that's absolutely heavenly. It's a delightful option for company! —Cathy Croyle, Davidsville, Pennsylvania
I recommend serving these Parmesan potato wedges alongside a salad for a light lunch or serving them as a side dish with a chicken or beef entree. —Beth Ask, Ulster, Pennsylvania
My husband and I avoid fried foods, but potatoes are part of our menu almost every day. These delectable sliced potatoes get nice and crispy and give our meals a likable lift. —Mary Lou Kelly, Scottdale, Pennsylvania
Coat tender chicken breasts with seasoned bread crumbs and smother in marinara sauce. Served on a hoagie, it’s a real treat! —Sue Bosek, Whittier, California
I began making this creamy side dish years ago as a way to get my kids to eat broccoli. They have since grown up but still request this satisfying casserole. It's truly a family favorite. —Barbara Uhl, Wesley Chapel, Florida
These tender breadsticks fill the kitchen with a tempting aroma when they are baking, and they're wonderful served warm. My family tells me I can't make them too often. —Gaylene Anderson, Sandy, Utah
I couldn’t shake my mashed potato habit—until I tried mashed cauliflower with a similar consistency. I started making my own, and my family loves it. —Meredith Howard, Franklin, Kentucky
On lazy summer weekends, we like chicken and yellow squash tossed with bow tie pasta. Add extra fresh grated Parmesan for a Sunday touch. —Sarah Smiley, Bangor, Maine
Here's one of the best pork medallion recipes I've found. With my own special tweaks, I have served this tender pork countless times for family and friends. It takes very little prep time and adapts easily to serve any number. —Angela Ciocca, Saltsburg, Pennsylvania
I've liked the chicken and artichoke combo for a long time. Here's my own lemony twist. With all the praise it gets, this dinner is so much fun to serve. —Carly Giles, Hoquiam, Washington
Sure, it’s simple and healthy but, oh, this roasted broccoli is also delicious. Cutting the stalks into tall trees turns the ordinary veggie into a standout side dish. —Holly Sander, Lake Mary, Florida
My creamy, comforting side dish wonderfully rounds out any holiday dinner. Just a little of this rich casserole goes a long way. —Jennifer Bley, Austin, Texas
My grandsons rave over these creamy potatoes loaded with Parmesan. That’s all the endorsement I need. Sometimes I use golden or red potatoes, with skins on. —Kallee Krong-McCreery, Escondido, California
A colorful mixture of peppers and green beans gets an Italian treatment with basil and Parmesan cheese in this delightful vegetable dish. The garlic adds a savory zip. —Marian Platt, Sequim, Washington
This cheese bowl salad looks impressive but is a cinch to make. I won't tell if you don't! —Melissa Wilkes, St. Augustine, Florida
I like the challenge of inventing recipes with ingredients I have on hand. This easy-peasy meal fits the bill. —Colleen Doucette, Truro, Nova Scotia
Shredded Parmesan gives these chops a really nice and rich coating that's easy to work with and so, so good. —Hayden Hosick, Corona, California
I wanted a healthier approach to fish sticks and developed a baked tilapia with a slightly peppery bite. My husband and sons love the crispy coating. —Candy Summerhill, Alexander, Arkansas
Mom taught me this easy recipe, which is perfect for feeding a crowd. There is never a crumb left over. Mom used her own bread dough, but using frozen dough is my shortcut. I make a wheat bread dough version with poppy and sesame seeds that’s popular, too. —Trisha Kruse, Eagle, Idaho
A splash of lemon and a shower of chopped parsley make this orzo one of my family's most requested springtime sides. It's fantastic with chicken, pork and fish, or you can eat it on its own as a light lunch. —Leslie Palmer, Swampscott, Massachusetts
Whether you need a quick gift idea or yummy munchies for movie night, we've got you covered with this cheesy twist on regular popped popcorn. —Taste of Home
We like to eat raw vegetables a few times a week as a side dish for a meal, and this is a healthier alternative to ranch dressing for a veggie dip. —Kathleen Tribble, Buellton, California
My family loves pasta! This simple dish is always a hit, especially during the spring when sugar snap peas are the sweetest. To keep us from getting in a rut, I change up the flavors. —Crystal Jo Bruns, Iliff, Colorado
My easy tartlets loaded with a cheesy mushroom filling take advantage of refrigerated crescent roll dough. I think they’re best warm from the oven with a sprinkling of green onion.—Betsy King, Duluth, Minnesota
This rich and creamy spinach dish takes minutes to make. If I'm expecting guests, I'll double or triple the recipe. —Leann Ross, San Tan Valley, Arizona
Pairs wedges of this chewy flatbread with a tomato-based soup and start dunking! —Cynthia M. Bent, Newark, Delaware