fine food - Chef Massimo Bottura

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Massimo Bottura is the chef patron of Osteria Francescana, a three-Michelin-star restaurant based in Modena, Italy, where Massimo grew up. He opened Osteria Francescana in 1995, and his avant-garde approach has garnered him many awards, including the number-three place on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. This month sees the release of Massimo Bottura’s first book with Phaidon Press, Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef.


Five Ages of Parmigiano Reggiano

One evening in Modena, we were visited by a gentleman farmer named Umberto Panini, who was eager to taste the dish we were then calling Three Textures and Temperatures of Parmigiano Reggiano. At the end of the meal, Umberto asked earnestly, “Have you ever thought about what stagionatura means to a wheel of Parmigiano? It might help your recipe.”

I found out that Parmigiano Reggiano is not just any old cheese; it’s a living, breathing portrait of Emilia-Romagna. I met cheese makers who were ageing wheels beyond the 24-month minimum requirement, for 28, 30, or 36 months and even longer, curious to see what could happen. Umberto was right.

The subtle changes between a 24- and 40-month cheese changed our recipe dramatically in texture, flavour, and consistency. We began stashing away wheels of Parmigiano at dairies all over the region with handwritten labels that said: “Osteria Francescana: Do not open until —.”

As our wheels matured, the recipe evolved accordingly. A 24-month cheese became a demi-soufflé; a 30-month cheese became the warm, enveloping sauce; a 36-month cheese became a chilled foam mounted in a siphon; 40-month crusts became an intensely flavoured paper-thin wafer.

The recipe was named Four Ages of Parmigiano Reggiano. It was no longer made with only one ingredient, but two: Parmigiano Reggiano and time. Following an event at the Louvre, for which we added my grandmother’s recipe for Parmigiano broth using 50-month crusts, Four Ages of Parmigiano Reggiano soon became Five, and our tone poem was complete.*

Recipe: Five Ages of Parmigiano Reggiano


  • 200g organic ricotta
  • 60g egg white
  • 100g 24-month Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
  • 40g double (heavy) cream
  • 1g sea salt
  • 0.5g white pepper

Grease some 8cm x 4cm aluminium timbales. Smoke the ricotta lightly over cherry-wood chips in a sealed oven for three minutes. Whisk the egg white to stiff peaks.

Whip the ricotta. Mix the Parmigiano with the cream, combine with the ricotta, and season with the salt and pepper. Fold in the whisked egg white and steam in the timbales for 45 minutes. Remove from the timbales and shape the soufflés into quenelles.

Parmigiano sauce

  • 20g capon stock (see page 276 of Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef), not strained
  • 100g 30-month Parmigiano Reggiano, grated.

Bring the stock to 60°C (140°F) at medium speed in a thermal mixer. Add the Parmigiano and bring it to 85°C (185°F). Increase the speed and process to create a smooth, velvety sauce. Pass through a fine chinois.

Parmigiano air

  • 200g 50-month Parmigiano Reggiano crusts
  • 200g 50-month Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
  • 2g lecithin

Place the Parmigiano crusts in a pan with 500g water and simmer for three hours over low heat. Strain and cool the liquid. Blend the chilled liquid and the grated Parmigiano for 30 minutes, then let it rest in the fridge overnight. Strain it through a tamis sieve and transfer the strained liquid to a large bowl. Just before serving, add the lecithin and whisk with a handheld blender until it rises into a cloud of air.

To serve: Place two quenelles of demi-soufflé at the base of each plate and add two spoonfuls of sauce around the soufflé. Place the foam on top, add the wafer at a diagonal slant, and finally a cloud of air covering one quarter of the plate.

Parmigiano foam

  • 125g capon stock (see page 276 of Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef)
  • 250g 36-month Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
  • 100g double (heavy) cream

Put the capon stock in a thermal mixer and bring to a boil at setting three. Add the Parmigiano a spoonful at a time. Increase the speed for one more minute, then add the cream. Cool the mixture to 4–8°C (39–46°F). Place in a siphon, shake it, charge it with a double cartridge, and shake again. Let rest in the fridge for at least one hour at 4–8°C (39–46°F) before serving.

Parmigiano wafer

  • 100g 40-month Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
  • 100g mineral water

Put the Parmigiano and water in a pan and slowly bring to a boil until the cheese becomes stringy. Remove from the heat and let it rest at room temperature for two hours. Drain off the liquid and put the cheese in the fridge overnight. Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F). Roll out the cold cheese dough to a thickness of 1mm and lay it out flat on a silicone baking mat. Bake for 12 minutes until it is a thin wafer. Let cool at room temperature, then crack it into four parts. Break it into an imperfect triangular shape, about 5cm.

This month sees the release of Massimo Bottura’s first book with Phaidon Press, Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef.



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