Pecorino

By Katrin Koelle
Updated on 27. Oct. 2020

Pecorino is an Italian miracle food, a delicious hard cheese that's a dream to cook with and snack on, and supplies some surprising health benefits as well.

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Pecorino romano...

  • ...is rich in protein.
    A 100 gram serving of pecorino contains on average a whopping 22 g of protein.
  • ...contains a valuable fatty acid.
    Pecorino is rich in powerful linolenic acid, an unsaturated omega-6 fatty acid that has been shown to lower bad cholesterol.
  • ...strengthens bones.
    Pecorino is rich in calcium, a mineral which helps keep bones and teeth strong.
  • ...is relatively low in fat.
    Compared to most other cheeses, pecorino is relatively low in fat.
  • ...contains lactose.
    Unfortunately, pecorino’s high lactose content means you probably shouldn’t eat it if you’re lactose intolerant.

What You Should Know About Pecorino

If you speak a little a little Italian, you'll immediately know where pecorino cheese comes from. The name derives from the Italian word "pecora", which means sheep, an ode to the sheep's milk from which traditional pecorino is made. This delicious hard cheese was first cultivated in central Italy thousands of years ago. Today it's produced across Italy, where every region has their own special twist on the classic pecorino romano.  

Origins

Pecoriono Romano was first produced in Rome over 2,000 years ago. Legend has it the cheese was a favorite of Roman soldiers, who believed it was a great source of physical strength.  

Flavor

Pecorino tastes very different depending on a variety of factors, including aage, origin and the percentage of sheep's and cow's milk used. The taste ranges from mild to more flavorful and nutty. 

Varieties

Pecorino romano (DOP): Aromatic and very sharp, this variety of pecorino is matured for a long time and yields a firmer texture. Despite the name, Pecorino romano has mostly come not from Rome, but Sardinia, since the 18th century.

Pecorino sardo (DOP): This Sardinian variety is mostly produced from raw milk. It is available "dolce", or young, with a more mild aroma, or "maturo", which involves a longer ripening process and usually means it has been smoked as well.  

Pecorino siciliano (DOP): This variety comes from Sicily, and comes in different varieties, from "tuma", or fresh, to "Incanestrato", which have been aged for 2 years. The popular "Tumazzu" variety is seasoned with peppercorns and saffron.

Pecorino toscano (DOP): This variant comes from Tuscany, and has a mild, almost sweet flavor.

Pecorino Cookbooks

Find all our recipes with pecorino here.

How Healthy is Pecorino?

Like most other cheeses, pecorino is far from a health food. Although it has less fat than most cheeses, 100 g of pecorino still contains a whopping 33 of fat, plus 402 calories. That said, in moderation pecorino can be a delicious and nutritious snack. It's a great source of protein and calcium, as well as linolenic acid, an incredibely powerful fatty acid that has been shown to lower cholesterol and help keep the heart healthy. In fact in Sardinia, many people regard pecorino as something of a medicinal marvel, and for good reason. Sardinia is most well-known for its pecorino production and its staggering number of octogenarians. 

PECORINO NUTRITIONAL INFO (100 g)  
Calories 402
Protein 22 g
Fat 33 g
Carbohydrates 1 g
Fiber 0 g

Shopping and Cooking Tips

Purchasing

Pecorino is available fresh, medium mature and fully ripened. Young, soft pecoriono tastes mildest; the longer the cheese matures, the darker, harder and more sharp in flavor it becomes.

Storage

Ripe and firm pecorino, like other hard cheeses, keeps quite long in the refrigerator. A great way to store it is by wrapping it in a special cheese or wax paper, placing it in a bowl and covering it with a plate. This will keep it hard and fresh, and ideal for grating.

What to Make With Pecorino

Young pecorino has a delicious mild flavor that can easily be lost among bold flavors. Thus it's best to enjoy this variety with minimal additional ingredients; it tastes great on its own on top of a grilled baguette, or on a simple side salad. In Italy, a beloved antipasto dish is young pecorino served with strips of sun-dried tomatoes and drizzled with olive oil.

Mature pecorino, on the other hand, has a more sharp flavor and is and harder in texture. It's delicious grated on top of pastas, eggs, or creamy meat dishes. Its consistency is similar to parmesan, and can largely be eaten in the same dishes you would put parmesan. 

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