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Pecorino Romano: where's the love?


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Am I the only person who likes Pecorino Romano cheese? I particularly like to eat it straight, with olives and other salty stuff, as a snack with cocktails. But it seems everybody I run into doesn't like it. The big objection is that it's too salty.

Will anybody join me in expressing love for Pecorino Romano as an eating cheese (as opposed to a grating cheese)?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
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It's never occurred to me to just eat it, since it's always called for as a possible substitute for grated Parmesan. But hey, why not?

It's too salty for some situations, but I thought it was a revelation with tomatoes. I'm sure the same is true for a number of other foods, too.

Looking forward to finding more ideas on this thread!

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I have stopped buying parmigiano and now buy only a variety of pecorinos. For grating (but equally tasty just to nibble on) I like Pecorino Stagionata. Now I've discovered Pecorino Maturo and that's good grated and dynamite on its own. For travel I found Pecorino Sardo is a fine all-purpose cheese, great for lugging on a picnic with crackers. It seems to last well unrefrigerated and is more available than the others.

I always thought the pecorinos were less salty generally than the parmigiano-reg, but it's been a while since I compared them. Originally I stared using the stagionata as a grated cheese because it didn't seem so salty and had a more interesting flavor.

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Am I the only person who likes Pecorino Romano cheese? I particularly like to eat it straight, with olives and other salty stuff, as a snack with cocktails. But it seems everybody I run into doesn't like it. The big objection is that it's too salty.

Will anybody join me in expressing love for Pecorino Romano as an eating cheese (as opposed to a grating cheese)?

I'm half-Italian... how couldn't I? Mostly I use it grated in undersalted pasta dishes (so as to balance it out), but I've been known to nibble away on it before and after dinner as well.

Try cacciocavalo--it's amazing as well. Little moister than pecorino romano.

D

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Whenever I take it out of the fridge to grate over pasta, I always slice a piece off to nibble, too. It also gets deployed in non-pasta situations, as noted above. Particularly good with marinated vegetables, cured meats, and other items in the antipasti realm.

 

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For example, Steve Jenkins, who is perhaps the preeminent cheese authority in the US, writes of Pecorino Romano in his Cheese Primer:

The intense flavor is peppery, very sheepy, and, to me, overly salty.

and

In my opinion, Romano and the other hard, southern sheep's-milk cheeses customarily used for grating make for rather overwhelming, overpowering eating cheeses.

I just don't agree. I love the stuff. But Jenkins seems representative of most people I've spoken to about this. Then again, the posts here don't seem to confirm it.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Santa Maria! Pecorino Romano is a brilliant cheese. Peppery, sheepy, salty -- that's what I love about it. Try it in shavings with groups of grapes.

And for general kitchen use: don't add too much salt to your pizza dough or your ragu. That's not gastronomical rocket science.

I like "overpowering overwhelming eating cheeses." What, it's a bad thing to say Kraft Medium Cheddar tastes like paper compared to Balderson's 8 year old? Pec isn't Parm, and it isn't Asiago. So what?

(I'm not pre-eminent in anything, but I think Jenkins doesn't get it.)

Margaret McArthur

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When I was a kid I used to go with my father to a couple of Italian markets in Cleveland on the weekend, one of them always had a few cheese samples out, and pecorino romano was one we got all the time, and I still do.

I'll second the recommendation above for Sicilian cacciocavallo. It's not a cheese that I've noticed even in Italian shops, but Iavarone's market a few blocks from me in Queens usually has one or two of them on hand.

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When I was a kid I used to go with my father to a couple of Italian markets in Cleveland on the weekend, one of them always had a few cheese samples out, and pecorino romano was one we got all the time, and I still do.

I'll second the recommendation above for Sicilian cacciocavallo.  It's not a cheese that I've noticed even in Italian shops, but Iavarone's market a few blocks from me in Queens usually has one or two of them on hand.

I only get cacciocavallo when one of my family comes back from Sicily with it. Hushed tones are usually associated with the removal of a loaf from the freezer for eating (typically Christmas time when the immediate family is together)

It's great stuff--I might have to look stateside for it.

D

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This past Easter I had a big chunk of Locatelli brand Pecorino on the counter waiting to be shaved over some asparagus, and a 4 yr old guest discovered it.

She started nibbling and continued with little pieces for about 10 min until she brought the last chunk back to her mother saying it was "too spicy with salt".

I never did put it on the asparagus so she would eat them at dinner.

Serve with chunks of Mortadella and fruit all drizzled with Good Balsamic

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I am 100% with Ms. Meadow! Expensive Parmesans $16/lb & above are completely wasted as cooking cheeses where a Pecorino Sardo works very well, e.g. a left over/dried-out end simmered in a spaghetti sauce, in meat balls, stuffings for larger polpettone etc. Even grated over pasta, its more assertive taste makes a little go a long way, good for those watching their calorie count!

On pizza, grated over fresh mozzarella, it survives high temperature with less loss of flavor than Parmesan. Anyway, the more than 30-50% price difference excites the cheapskate in me, who reserves excellent Parmesan only for special fresh/shaved use. However, I would definitely go for the craggy uneven chunks prised on demand out of the huge imported wheels of Pecorino, be it romano or sardo, and view the more industrialized, smooth, plastic wrapped wedges with less favor. These seem to substitute salt for flavor.

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Can't make the classic pasta cacio e pepe without good Pecorino.

They range from quite mild to intensely salty/spicy, but they all have their uses. Check out DiPalo's someday - they probably have 10 varieties of Pecorino, but not more than 1 or 2 Romanos.

It's a classic nibble with fresh, young fava beans.

It's not, imo, a good sub for Parmiggiano, which is a cow's milk cheese.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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I grew up eating it as it was the only cheese my parents would buy- for grating purposes. No parmigiano in our household which I only discovered when I moved out!! However, I can't jump on the romano bandwagon, I find it too salty and just not very good. ...I only use it for cooking. It's wonderful for stuffings and other bread mixtures e.g. stuffed squid, meatballs...I even use it in a recipe for leg of lamb.

I eat plenty of other pecorinos from Tuscany-aged and not aged, not so much from Sardegna.

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I'm a fan: I keep sharp cheddar and pecorino on hand at all times (in the way some households are never without milk or eggs). I like it with honey (tames the salt), with bitter greens, or eaten straight, with some fruit on the side. I prefer it over parmesan, though I'm hard-pressed to describe why in words.

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ambra, it's interesting to me that you only use it for cooking: I'm the opposite. I don't care for the flavor or the saltiness when it's been heated, but plain as an accompaniment to a bowl of olives and a cocktail (or two!) I love it. Really, I think you need a salty, robust cheese to hold its own against the olives, so while I would prefer a soft, stinky cheese if that's all I'm eating, something like Pecorino Romano is great on a tray with other salty foods.

Chris Hennes
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For the past couple of hours I've had a piece of Pecorino Romano and a piece of Parmigiano Reggiano out on my counter, and I've been tasting bits of each. I've probably done it 20 times, such that I don't think I can eat any more cheese this month.

If you'd asked me yesterday, I'd have said these two types of cheese are comparable, but having tried them side-by-side I now feel they're completely different. I'm surprised by just how different. Aside from being hard in texture and salty, there are no other significant commonalities. Without scientific instruments it's hard to be sure, but to my palate the Pecorino Romano is much saltier. So much so that, standing next to it, the Parmigiano Reggiano doesn't taste like a salty cheese at all, even though I know it is. The Parmigiano Reggiano has a sweet, almost buttery taste punctuated by those amino-acid crystals and some Scotch/Bourbon notes. The Pecorino Romano is funky, barnyardy, pungent and significantly less subtle than the Parmigiano Reggiano. I think, eaten straight, it's pretty clear that the Parmigiano Reggiano is a superior cheese. Then again it costs double. And as a snack accompanying cocktails I think I prefer Pecorino Romano for its ability to punch through the flavors of spirits, olives and salted nuts. I have to do a side-by-side tasting on that issue too, though.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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What Chris Hennes said: I can't see Pecorino Romano as a substitute for Parmigiano-Reggiano or vice versa. The latter is mellower, less assertive, less peppery, and - yes - less salty, at least tastewise.

I tend to snack on both, though, as I grate them.

I use Parm-Reg so infrequently that I don't mind keeping a quarter pound or so on hand, usually to grate, sometimes in my mac and cheese or tomato soup. After encountering grapes accompanied by Cheddar and Swiss all the time, though, I think that Pecorino Romano would make a welcome change of pace.

To the mother (aunt? grandma?) of the four-year-old: Next time, put the cheese in a high cupboard to let it reach room temperature. Then grate it over the asparagus before serving. It sounds to me that the child wasn't turned off by it as much as she suffered an overdose.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

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It's a classic nibble with fresh, young fava beans.

We actually loved this combination when we took a class with Maureen Fant

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Absolutely: I'm sometimes amazed to see recipes that state that one may be a suitable replacement for the other. The flavor profiles are completely different.

Perhaps those recommendations refer to the supermarket versions that come in a can. I don't actually know, but I could believe there wouldn't be much difference between those two versions. Flavorless being flavorless, and all. :biggrin:

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