Italian food I think is one of the most copied and cooked cuisines in the world. It doesn’t matter where in the world we find ourselves we will ALWAYS find an Italian restaurant, whether run by an Italian itself or not!
As well as with the cuisine Italian ingredients are very much widely known and sought, and one ingredient that is particularly known worldwide is Pecorino cheese particularly Pecorino Romano, yeap you probably thought I was going to say pasta, right?
So let’s start from the beginning – What is Pecorino Cheese?
You might think, why is she starting with this? We all know what Pecorino cheese is… Do you?
Ok, well Pecorino cheese is simply a hard cheese made from sheep milk. Sheep meaning “Pecus” in Latin (Pecora in Italian) which in turn means livestock.
Pecorino cheese is not “A Cheese” at such, but rather a TYPE of cheese like for example Cheddar. In Italy there are four main varieties of Pecorino cheese, all of which have P.D.O status (Protected Designation of Origin) under EU Law.
The most famous Pecorino cheese and the one that we always find in supermarket shelves and deli shops is Pecorino Romano, but did you know that this cheese actually comes from Sardinia? Although is allowed to be produced in the Lazio region and in Tuscany, this cheese has its origins in the small island of Sardinia.
The other main P.D.O Pecorino are: Pecorino Sardo (from Sardinia), Pecorino Toscano (from Tuscany), Pecorino Siciliano (from Sicily) and Pecorino di Filano (from Basilicata). Of course these are just type of cheeses, because in reality within these types of cheese we will find many variations, flavours, make and maturing times.
All these Pecorino cheeses are delicious in their own right and very well known within Italy, however, Calabria also produces the most fantastic Pecorino cheeses. Although not yet with a P.D.O. status, Calabrian Pecorino have been coming up in the quality ladder in recent years, winning for 3 consecutive years as the best Italian Pecorino in the Tutto Food Exhibition in Milan.
Of all Calabria’s Pecorino the most widely known are Pecorino Crotonese (from the province of Crotone, South of Calabria) and Pecorino Riserva, made in Reggio Calabria (South of Calabria).
Pecorino Crotonese as with all Pecorino come in a variety of maturing times and flavours, but the most widely known is the crumbly white cheese with a tangy yet creamy flavour. Great to use in salads or any cold dish due to its flavour.
What’s the Southern Italian traditional way of making Pecorino Cheese?
Traditionally in the South of Italy people add black pepper to Pecorino cheese, in Calabria in particular you also get it with dried chillies, making it a spicy Pecorino Cheese. Nowadays you’ll also find Pecorino cheeses with fresh Rocket, walnuts, truffles and even red wine!
How Italians eat Pecorino Cheese?
A Pecorino Stagionato (mature pecorino cheese) is often the finish of the meal. It can be served with nuts or drizzled with honey as it is sometimes served Parmigiano Reggiano.
Pecorino cheese can be used to finish pasta dishes, to prepare sandwiches, to add to an antipasto or to finish a meal, it is really a very versatile cheese due to many variations and maturing time this cheese comes in.
So, the next time you go to your deli to buy some Pecorino, please please remember that Pecorino is a type of cheese!! The best advice when buying Pecorino cheese is to ask:
What type of Pecorino cheese do you have, where does it come from and how long has it been matured?
This way not only you will look like a pro cheese expert, but it will also help you understand the best cheese for that perfect meal!