Pecorino - Gourmet Guide

June 12, 2019 | By Dave Mattingly


Pecorino is the family of Italian sheep's milk cheeses that includes Pecorino Romano, Pecorino Toscano, Pecorino Sardo, and Pecorino Siciliano. The word Pecorino is derived from the word "pecora", meaning sheep in Italian. Pecorino is a firm, salty cheese, made from sheep's milk and occasionally a mixture of sheep's and goat's milk. Pecorino Romano competes with Parmigiano Reggiano in the hard grating cheese market, but is saltier and less complex in flavor. As Pecorino Romano ages, it becomes saltier and firmer. Aged varieties of Pecorino Romano are referred to as "Stagionato". These varieties are harder and have a crumbly texture. Pecorino "fresco" and Pecorino "semi-stagionato" are aged less and are softer and milder in flavor.

While Pecorino's origins may date back thousands of years, Pecorino's introduction to the modern era came from sheep farming in the Mediterranean. For hundreds of years, sheep farming in Italy has been a central component to rural living. Sheep provide many of the family's basic needs, from cheese, milk, and meat, to fleece which can be woven into clothing and blankets. Each variety of Pecorino cheese has received Protected Designation of origin (PDO) status in the European Union which provides name protection, legally ensuring that the cheese must have been produced in certain regions of Italy from certain breeds of sheep using specific production methods.

Pecorino Romano Cheese
Pecorino Romano is the most famous Pecorino cheese, with the Locatelli brand being the most well known. In the US, Pecorino Romano has been imported since the 1800s. Pecorino Romano originated in Roman times where it was prized for its long shelf life and sustained the Roman army in its journeys. While Pecorino Romano was traditionally made in Rome, demand became so great during the 1800s that production was extended to Sardinia in order to meet demand. In fact, Locatelli production is now done Today, Pecorino Romano is made from the milk of sheep that graze in the countryside of the Lazio region surrounding Rome and in the Sardinia region using the same natural procedures that have changed little from ancient times. Pecorino Romano is a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) cheese that may be produced only in the Italian regions of Lazio, Sardinia and Tuscany. Pecorino Romano is at its best when used as a grating cheese in soups, salads, pastas or on vegetables or fruits, such as pears. Pecorino Romano is high in protein and is a good source of calcium, phosphorous, potassium and magnesium.

Pecorino Toscano Cheese
Pecorino Toscano is a hard sheep's milk cheese that is milder and less salty than Pecorino Romano. Pecorino Toscano is a PDO cheese made in the Tuscany region of Italy. Pecorino Toscano is ready for consumption after it is aged 20 days when sold fresh, or after 3 months when sold aged. Made in small, dense round wheels, Pecorino Toscano is complex, sweet, creamy and nutty, and is often eaten as a table cheese. Pecorino Toscano also melts well, and is particularly delicious when enjoyed after a meal, drizzled with honey, or eaten with pears or figs. Aged Pecorino Toscano is also a great substitute for Parmigiano Reggiano when grated over pasta, soups and salads.

Pecorino Sardo Cheese
Pecorino Sardo is a firm sheep's milk cheese made on the island of Sardinia. Not as well known outside of Italy as Pecorino Romano, Pecorino Sardo is a PDO cheese that is less salty yet has a richer flavor than Pecorino Romano, and its sharpness increases with age. Pecorino Sardo is excellent when used to make pestos or when eaten with fruit.

Pecorino Siciliano Cheese
Pecorino Siciliano is a firm sheep's milk cheese made on the Italian island of Sicily. Pecorino Siciliano is a PDO cheese that has been made in Sicily since ancient Greeks were in control of the island. Also less salty than Pecorino Romano, Pecorino Siciliano may be aged from a little as 3 or 4 months or as long as 18 months. This Pecorino is often flavored with peppercorns. In this configuration the cheese is referred to as Pepato.

In certain regions of Italy, particularly in the south, Pecorino is often produced with additional ingredients such as walnuts, pistachios or truffles, and seasoned with spices. Pecorino Pepato, meaning "Peppered Pecorino" is made by adding peppercorns during the removal of the whey in the cheese making process.

Our Pecorino selection includes the following items:

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