I’ll tell you the real winner of the Triple Crown. It wasn’t American Pharaoh; it was Grana Padano. The cheese came from behind for me last week, and passed many of the horses in the pack for best cheese to grate atop this week’s pasta.
Grana Padano, a semi-hard cheese similar to Parmigiano, hails from the Po River Valley in Northern Italy. Because there are more areas that produce Grana Padano, including Piemonte, Lombardia, Veneto, part of Trentino and the province of Piacenza in Emilia-Romagna. It is extremely popular in Italy and abroad, with over 4 million wheels sold per year. Monks started making Grana Padano about 1,000 years ago. “Grana” (meaning grain in Italian) refers to its crumbly texture and “Padano” to its origin in the Padana Valley. The cheese tends to have a more subtle flavor than Parmigiano.
The best Grana Padano cheeses are aged 20 months, and the best of the best also come from milk obtained during the month of March, when the fields where the cows graze are at their height of freshness.
Last week, I got a chunk of it at DiPalo’s on Grand Street in NY’s Little Italy. It took 20 months to age, and about a week to devour.
p.s. Check out our wine pairings to complement this dish.
Scrub the potatoes under cold water and cut into bite sizes pieces. Boil for a few minutes, until half-cooked. Remove and rinse with cold water. Repeat for the beans, which should cook only for a couple of minutes.
In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté the onion in olive oil until golden. Add the potatoes and cover for about 5 minutes. Add the white wine. After a few minutes, add the beans and cook for a few more minutes. Add salt and pepper.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente and drain, reserving some of the cooking water. Cook together for a minute or 2, and add some reserved water if it seems dry. Mix in the Grana Padano.
Serve immediately, with a sprinkle of black pepper and Grana Padano as desired.