It’s pecorino cheese’s time to shine

By / Food / February 11th, 2020 / 17
pecorino cheese

Almost anybody who’s swirled a strand of spaghetti around their fork has tried parmesan cheese. Parmesan is a common pasta topper, but it’s not your only option. After all, life’s too short to limit yourself to just one kind of cheese. Pecorino isn’t as well-known as parmesan, but it packs a stronger flavour and can be used in many of the same recipes. Keep reading to find out why you should treat your palate to this ancient Italian cheese.

What is pecorino cheese?

Pecorino is a hard Italian cheese made from sheep’s milk. It comes in several varieties such as Pecorino Romano, Pecorino Toscano, Pecorino Siciliano and Pecorino Sardo. The name comes from the Italian word pecora, which literally means “of sheep”. Cheesemakers age it for eight to 12 months to give it a strong flavour and a dry, crumbly texture. The taste becomes progressively smokier as the cheese ages.

Where does pecorino come from?

Pecorino is an ancient type of cheese that’s been consumed by Roman people for at least 2,000 years. Cheesemakers in Ancient Rome used to make it from the milk of wild sheep grazing around the city. Soldiers were given a daily ration of pecorino as a source of energy along with bread and soup. Nowadays, most pecorino cheese comes from the Italian island of Sardinia, where there are more than 12,000 sheep farms. It’s thought the island is home to more than three million sheep — more than double the number of people living there.

How does pecorino differ from parmesan?

Both have similar tastes, but pecorino’s flavour is sharper and saltier. You can use it as a substitute for parmesan in most recipes since they have a similar texture. Parmesan cheese is traditionally made from cow’s milk while pecorino comes from sheep. Parmesan is generally aged longer than pecorino cheese, which dulls its taste somewhat.

How can I use pecorino?

You can grate it over pasta, use it in breads and casseroles, or eat it by itself with a glass of red wine. You can use pecorino in most recipes that call for parmesan if you want a sharper taste. It is saltier than parmesan, so you may want to reduce the portion by about a third when using it in recipes like breads and casseroles.


Daniel Yetman is a freelance writer who left the shores of Nova Scotia to pursue his MFA in Writing at the University of Saskatchewan. When he’s not binging on dark chocolate and kimchi, he’s jetting around the world to try the local cuisine.

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