That "Parmesan cheese" that comes in a green can is an abomination. How does it even get to call itself Parmesan cheese? The real Parmesan cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano has a flavor and texture that is unrivaled by any other cheese. Parmigiano-Reggiano is an artisan product, so no two Parmesans are the same, although all meet a minimum standard eastablished by the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese consortium in Italy. It can only be made in certain parts of Italy, and it is aged 18 months to 3 years.
In high school my family and I had dinner at a local Italian restaurant and ordered an appetizer of roasted red peppers and Parmesan cheese. I envisioned some tepid red peppers from a jar sprinkled with Kraft Parmesan cheese as that was my point of reference up until that point. On the contrary, the peppers were obviously roasted in house, and they tasted bright and fresh. The cheese was like nothing I had ever tasted before- it was hard and crumbly and dotted with bits of crystalls that crunch when you bit into the cheese. It tasted nutty, salty, yet slightly sweet with caramel tones. I was eating real Parmesan cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and it was worlds away from the Kraft parmesan cheese in a can.
Now I always keep some fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese in my fridge. I've experimented with different domestic and Australian Parmesan cheese varieties, but I just keep coming back to Parmigiano-Reggiano. Still, if you don't want to shell out the money for the real stuff, these varieties are a vast improvement over the Kraft flakes in a green can. Please don't buy it already grated because it will be more expensive and dry out faster. Use a microplane (one of my favorite kitchen tools!) to grate some here and there for cooking or over your pasta. Parmigiano-Reggiano is so dry and aged (usually about 24 months) that it takes a very long time to go bad. Just wrap it up and keep it in the cheeses drawer of your fridge. Remember to save the hard, inedible rinds to throw in your soup or stock!
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese: Partially Skimmed Cow Milk, Salt, Rennet
Kraft grated Parmesan cheese: Parmesan Cheese (Pasteurized Part-Skim Milk, Salt, Less Than 2% Of Enzymes, Cheese Culture, Cellulose Powder To Prevent Caking, Potassium Sorbate To Protect Flavor)Aged 6 Months