Nothing complements pasta dishes, roasted vegetables, soups, stews, and salads quite like freshly grated cheese. Not only does it add flavor and texture, but a little goes a long way. If you’re pressed for time, you can buy grated cheese in a container at the grocery store, but for maximum flavor, grate your own. Here are some helpful tips:
Get a Good Grater
There are many different types of cheese graters. Perhaps the most common is the box grater, which has both fine and coarse holes for grating or shredding hard and soft cheeses. For very finely grated hard cheeses, like Parmesan, a Microplane zester/grater, which looks like a carpenter’s rasp, is ideal. And for grating hard cheese at the table, let guests pass a stainless steel rotary cheese grater. If you want to grate a lot of cheese, but are pressed for time, you can use a mini chopper or food processor with the grater attachment.
Storing Grated Cheese
Both hard and semi-hard grated cheeses lend themselves to freezing. Parmesan, Gruyère, Asiago, Cheddar, and Jarlsberg are just some types that freeze well after grating. Pack in small, airtight plastic containers and store in the freezer for three to six months. There’s no need to defrost cheese before using since it will defrost quickly.
Choose Your Textures
Finely grated cheese is ideal for sprinkling on soups, stews, salads, and pasta dishes. For casseroles, quesadillas, pizza, and other dishes that incorporate the cheese, shredded cheese is best because it melts more slowly than grated cheese.
Mix and Match
Rather than using just one grated cheese for sprinkling or cooking, prepare a few and mix them together (and freeze them together, too!). For example, change things up with a mix of grated Cheddar, Romano, and Monterey Jack, or try combining grated Asiago, Gruyère, and Parmesan. Ask the cheesemonger at any gourmet grocery store for other good combos, and remember to choose reduced-fat varieties.