Through my baking endeavors, I’ve discovered that a well-balanced dessert often benefits from a dash of savoriness in the recipe. When making a traditional cheesecake, I usually add a pinch of salt into the crust mixture and find that the tart, tanginess of the cream cheese and sour cream help balance out the sweeter ingredients in the recipe. However, this led me to wonder what other savory ingredients (aside from salt) I could use to make my cheesecake more balanced, luxurious, and dare I say, cheesier.
Much more than just a pasta topping, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese adds savoriness, complexity, and nuttiness to just about anything it touches without fully overpowering a dish. This umami-rich cheese pairs so well with just about every ingredient, it’s no wonder we’re all obsessed with it. From charcuterie boards to homemade Bolognese, we’ve grown to make this high-quality cheese a staple of our kitchens, which made adding it to my cheesecake an easy decision.
First, I finely grated the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese into the thinnest and lightest texture possible, using a microplane. The cheese melted into the filling effortlessly for an ethereal and creamy texture, with a slightly nutty and cheesy funk that keeps you coming back bite after bite. For even more salty-sweet goodness, I added Parmigiano Reggiano to the crust, which replaced the salt I typically use to balance out the mixture’s flavors.
Though in the United States, most Parmigiano Reggiano cheese sold has been aged no less than the standard 24 months, try to opt for a younger, creamier Parmigiano Reggiano if you’re able to get your hands on one. (My advice would be to ask your local cheesemonger for recommendations on the best options available near you.) If you can’t find a younger Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, whatever you’re able to source should work just fine. Lastly, make sure to use room-temperature cream cheese and eggs for a clump-free, perfectly creamy cheesecake. For ideas on different ways to top it (from honey drizzles to tangy balsamic glaze), check this out. —Maki Yazawa
Test Kitchen Notes
This recipe is shared in partnership with the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium. —The Editors
- Prep time 45 minutes
- Cook time 2 hours
- Serves 10 to 12
- For the crust:
finely ground Parmigiano Reggiano
unsalted butter, melted (plus more for greasing)
- For the filling:
(8-ounce) packages room-temperature cream cheese
1 1/3 cups
finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano (use a microplane)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Make the crust: In a food processor, finely grind the Parmigiano Reggiano and set it aside in a small bowl. Next, finely grind the graham crackers and pecans in the food processor. Add the lemon zest, cinnamon, and sugar. Pulse to combine.
- Add the Parmigiano Reggiano in small batches and pulse to combine.
- Slowly add the melted butter until the mixture resembles moist sand. To test the consistency, press a spoonful of mixture in your fingertips. The crumbs should hold their shape together. If needed, add additional butter to achieve the correct consistency.
- Line the bottom of a 10-inch, non-stick springform pan with a fitted, circular sheet of parchment paper and grease the sides of the pan with 1 tablespoon unsalted butter.
- Pour the crust mixture into the pan. Using the back of a measuring cup, gently press the mixture to form a 1-centimeter-thick crust that covers the pan’s interior. Leave about 1 centimeter of space between the crust and the upper edge of the pan.
- Bake the crust for 15 to 18 minutes, or until slightly golden. Set aside to cool.
- Meanwhile, make the filling for the cheesecake: Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, whip the room-temperature cream cheese on medium speed until smooth and creamy.
- With the mixer on low, slowly add the granulated sugar and mix until thoroughly combined. Add the sour cream, vanilla extract, and the finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano, and mix until fully incorporated.
- With the mixer on low, slowly add the room-temperature eggs, one egg at a time. Mix until thoroughly homogenized.
- Next, prepare a water bath for the cheesecake by filling a roasting pan with room-temperature water about 1 to 1 1/2 inches deep. Lower the temperature of the oven to 325°F and place the roasting pan in the oven.
- Once the crust is cool enough to handle, wrap the bottom of the springform pan with two layers of tin foil to prevent water from leaking into the pan as it cooks in the water bath.
- Fill the cooled crust with the cheesecake batter, enough to cover the upper rim of the crust.
- Carefully place the tin foil-wrapped springform pan in the center of the water bath and cook for 1 hour and 25 minutes, or until the cheesecake mixture has fully set. To check for doneness, give the pan a gentle shake. The center should jiggle slightly more than the outer rim, and the top should be lightly golden and matte.
- Once fully set, remove the pan from the water bath. Discard the foil, and place it on a wire rack to cool. When completely cooled, put in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 hours before serving.