Massimo Bottura's Five Ages of Parmigiano Reggiano Recipe: A Legendary Culinary Creation

Bianca Tecchiati
copertina 5 stagionature di parmigiano bottura

"Two ingredients, Parmigiano Reggiano and time: the chewable version of the slow aging process." Massimo Bottura recounts a dish that has become legendary: his Five Ageings of Parmigiano Reggiano.

Chef's cover photo (dekstop) by Anders Jorgensen

The dish

With its record of PDO and PGI products, to be precise 44, a heritage wrapped in the unparalleled hospitality of its people, it was inevitable that Emilia-Romagna would become one of the most attractive gastronomic destinations worldwide. This is also thanks to an unwavering ambassador of Italian culture like chef Massimo Bottura, who never fails to celebrate his land, with the mythical combination of Slow Food and Fast Cars, praising the skilled rezdore guardians of the secrets of the perfect tortellini, the winemakers, the producers of balsamic vinegar, but above all the master cheese makers of Parmigiano Reggiano.

chef massimo bottura pier marco tacca getty images
Pier Marco Tacca, Getty Images

"When in the early '90s, at the Campazzo trattoria, I began to experiment on this gastronomic icon of Emilia," Bottura recounts, "the average aging was around 18 months, and there I realized that 550 liters of milk compressed into 40 kg of cheese perhaps deserved a greater and more reverent work of time. I consider it a sort of social gesture, which translates into quality."

su nero

Quality, as defined by philosopher Robert Pirsig, is what causes social development, that attention, that care which is at the base of cultural evolution. Even when referring to food, it's not just a sensory fact, but it involves symbols, memory, rituals, and narratives, and Massimo Bottura was the forerunner of a cuisine that obviously appeals to the senses but goes beyond and is imbued with stories.

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Thirty years have passed, but even then the Modenese chef based his creative impulse on semantic reversals, on the dematerialization of the established to rework its construction and reassemble the pieces with a subversive vision. Even towards cornerstones like the cheese symbol of the Italian Food Valley, which in 2003 reached the historic record of over three billion in turnover.

frutta secca

The initial idea was developed around the diversification of three consistencies, thus a mi-cuit, accompanied by a sauce and a biscuit, all starting from Parmigiano Reggiano. Further study subsequently resulted in a frozen foam, which stood apart from the rest due to its different temperature. Evolution then led to grafting the concept of aging into the preparation, which turned time into a fully-fledged ingredient.

aceto balsamico

Thus, a 24-month cheese was used for the base cream and a 30-month one for the demi-soufflé. For the foam from the siphon, it was raised to 36 months, from 40-month crusts came the crispy biscuit, while the airy cloud covering it all involved a 50-month cheese. "Two ingredients," Bottura recalls, "Parmigiano Reggiano and time, the chewable version of the slow aging process."

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Simply the magnification of the cheesemakers' work and the expression of the slow passage of time in a floating duet with the Po Valley fog. A timeless and ever-relevant dish that is now included in the Francescana at Maria Luigia menu, nine courses that have made history at the restaurant on Via Stella.

Five Ageings of Parmigiano Reggiano, in different consistencies and temperatures

Cinque Stagionature di Parmigiano Reggiano in Diverse Consistenze e Temperature Paolo Terzi
Photo by Paolo Terzi

For 4 people

Parmigiano Reggiano Demi-Soufflé

  • 200 g of organic ricotta
  • 60 ml of egg white
  • 100 g of grated 24-month Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 40 ml of cream
  • 1 g of sea salt
  • 0.5 g of white pepper

In a smoker, with cherry wood, lightly smoke the ricotta for three minutes and then whisk it. Mix the Parmigiano Reggiano with the cream, add them to the ricotta, with salt and pepper. Fold in the whipped egg white and fill aluminum molds 4x8 cm previously buttered. Bake for 45 minutes, then remove the soufflés and shape them into quenelles.

Parmigiano Reggiano Sauce

  • 20 ml of unfiltered capon broth
  • 100 g of grated 30-month Parmigiano Reggiano

In a Thermomix, heat the broth to 60°C at medium speed, add the Parmigiano Reggiano, and bring to 85°C while blending and increasing the speed until obtaining a smooth sauce to strain through a chinois.

Parmigiano Foam

  • 125 ml of capon broth
  • 250 g of grated 36-month Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 100 ml of cream

Bring the capon broth to a boil in the Thermomix at speed 3, gradually add the Parmigiano Reggiano, then the cream, increasing the speed for one minute, and cool to 4-8°C. Transfer the mixture to a siphon, shake it, charge with a double cartridge, and shake again. Let it rest in the refrigerator at 4-8°C for an hour.

Parmigiano Reggiano Biscuit

  • 100 g of grated 40-month Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 100 ml of mineral water

Slowly bring a pot of water to a boil with the Parmigiano Reggiano added, remove from heat when the cheese starts to shred, and let it sit for two hours. Strain the water and let the cheese rest overnight in the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 170°C, stretch the cheese until it forms a 1 mm thick sheet, place it on a Silpat sheet, and bake for 12 minutes. Let it cool to room temperature and break it into approximately 5 cm triangular pieces.

Parmigiano Reggiano Air

  • 200 g of 50-month Parmigiano Reggiano rinds
  • 200 g of grated 50-month Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 2 g of lecithin

Slowly simmer the Parmigiano Reggiano rinds in 500 ml of water for three hours, strain and let cool, add the grated cheese, whisk for 30 minutes, and let it rest overnight in the refrigerator. Strain through a flour sieve into a bowl, and at the time of service, add the lecithin and whisk with an electric whisk until obtaining an airy cloud.

Plate Composition

Place two quenelles of demi-soufflé in the center, arrange two spoonfuls of sauce around them, place the foam on one side, cover a quarter of the plate with the air, and insert the biscuit in the center, tilting it slightly

massimo bottura Getty Images
Getty Images

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