While we might stick to the usual suspects when it comes to eating cheese, like Monterey Jack and Cheddar, there are countless types of cheese to choose from. There are over 1,800 different types you can experiment with. From sprinkling on top of pasta to topping burgers, there’s never a shortage of ideas on consuming one of the world’s most popular foods.
One type of cheese you might not be familiar with is Pecorino. This is a hard cheese that is incredibly versatile. A high-quality Pecorino can take an average meal to the next level.
This guide will discuss everything you need to know about Pecorino cheese. We’ll talk about the history of Pecorino and some easy recipes you can incorporate into your weekly meals.
What Is Pecorino Cheese?
Pecorino comes from “Pecora,” the Italian word for sheep. The word comes from a period when sheep were a primary food source. Records pinpoint the invention of Pecorino cheese almost 2,000 years ago in ancient Rome.
Pecorino is typically associated with hard, firm cheese that you can find in your local supermarket. However, the name can encompass all Italian cheese made from sheep’s milk.
There are three main types of Pecorino. They are:
The classifications are based on how long the cheese got aged.
Cheesemakers add rennet to the sheep’s milk to form cheese curds. Rennet is an organic substance that includes the enzyme rennin. It’s found in the stomach lining of lambs, calves, and goats.
Cheesemakers will take the cheese curds, drain them, and form them into wheels. They’ll then press, wrap, salt, and age the cheese. Pecorino can get aged from a few months or a year.
The cheese will become more salty and crumbly the longer it ages. That type of Pecorino is perfect for grating.
Younger Pecorino has a more creamy texture. It’s a great choice for putting on sandwiches or eating on its own.
What Part of Italy Does Pecorino Come From?
There are four varieties of Pecorino cheese. They come from the following areas in Italy:
- Pecorino Sardo: from Sardinia
- Pecorino Siciliano: from Siciliy
- Pecorino Toscano: from Tuscany
- Pecorino Romano: from Sardinia, Umbria, and Lazio
Pecorino Romano is the most prevalent variety in the United States.
How Is It Different From Parmesan Cheese?
One of the main differences between Parmesan and Pecorino cheese is that Parmesan gets made from cow’s milk. As we mentioned earlier, Pecorino is made from sheep’s milk.
Parmesan also needs to be aged for at least one year. The long aging process gives the cheese the complex and nutty flavor it’s known for.
How Can I Use Pecorino in My Meals?
The saltiness of Pecorino cheese makes it a wonderful addition to any meal. Its versatility makes it pair well with other ingredients, including different cheeses.
This light and customizable pizza will quickly become your household’s favorite type of pizza. It’s great for an appetizer or as a main dish. You can pair it with a light side salad to make a more complete meal.
Here are the ingredients you need to gather for this recipe:
- One large onion
- Two cloves of garlic
- Eight tablespoons of Pecorino
- One pizza dough
- Three tablespoons of finely chopped parsley
- Freshly ground pepper and sea salt
- One tablespoon of rosemary, thyme, and marjoram
- Six tablespoons of olive oil
Before you get started making your pizza, preheat your oven to 425°. You can also use store-bought pizza dough or make your favorite from scratch.
Follow these directions to make your pizza:
- Thinly slice the onion
- Saute it in three tablespoons of olive oil until golden and soft
- Add the garlic and cook for one minute
- Remove the pan from the heat
- Knead the pizza dough, roll it out, and place it on a pizza tile or baking sheet
- Spread the cheese, garlic, and onions on the dough
- Sprinkle the pizza with the spices
- Top with salt and pepper
- Drizzle with the leftover olive oil
- Bake for about 20 minutes until lightly browned
While this cheese is great on its own, you can use Pecorino topping on your pizzas as well. Grate some Pecorino on a sausage pizza with Mozzarella cheese.
Just like with pizza, you can add Pecorino as a garnish on top of any pasta dish where you’d normally use Parmesan. There are a few delicious pasta dishes where Pecorino is the star of the show.
One of our favorites is Cacio e Pepe. It’s a Roman pasta dish that’s super simple to make. All you need is a few ingredients you already have in your pantry:
- Four tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Two tablespoons of unsalted butter
- 1/2 pound of spaghetti noodles
- Two ounces of Pecorino Romano
We recommend finely grating the Pecorino cheese using the smallest side of your box grater. Follow these easy directions to whip up this pasta dish:
- Heat three tablespoons of olive oil and some black pepper over medium-low heat
- Cook for around one minute before setting it aside
- Put the spaghetti noodles in a large skillet, covering them with water
- Season with salt before bringing to a boil
- Cook the noodles until their al dente
- Add a few tablespoons of pasta water to the pepper/olive oil mixture
- Stir in the unsalted butter
- Put the cooked spaghetti in the mixture
- Add the remaining olive oil and cheese
- Stir until melted
- Season with salt and pepper
You can top this dish with more black pepper and cheese, depending on your preferences. Pair this dish with some crusty bread and a steak if you’re feeling extra hungry.
If you’re looking for a light salad to bring to your next neighborhood BBQ, look no further than our crunchy kale salad. This delicious salad is topped with Pecorino and walnuts. Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make this dish:
- Two cups finely chopped radicchio
- Four cups finely chopped kale
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
- 1/2 cup shaved Pecorino Romano
- One juiced lemon
- One teaspoon of lemon zest
- Two tablespoons of finely chopped basil
- 1/4 cup dried currants
- 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Make sure you clean and remove the stems of the radicchio and kale before you chop them. This step ensures you don’t experience any of the bitter flavors the cores can give you. Follow these steps to make this salad:
- Toss the radicchio and kale with 1/8 cup of olive oil, the lemon zest, and the juice
- Let the mixture sit for around two minutes
- Add the remaining ingredients (except for walnuts), mixing thoroughly
- Season with pepper and salt
- Mix in the walnuts right before you serve the salad
- Top with additional Pecorino cheese
No problem if you can’t find radicchio in your local market. You can substitute it with arugula. You can also use fresh dates instead of currants.
Are you tired of dipping your chips and veggies in the same Ranch or hummus dip? Take your party game to the next level with a whipped Pecorino dip. Make sure you add these ingredients to your shopping list:
- 1/2 cup of olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt
- One to two tablespoons of water
This dip serves about eight people. You can double the recipe if you’re serving a large group of people. Here are the directions to make this dip:
- Put yogurt, olive oil, and cheese into a blender or food processor
- Blend the mixture until fluffy and light
- Scrap down the sides of the container a couple of times while mixing
- Add water to achieve your desired thickness
- Garnish with olive oil drizzle and black pepper
We think this dip pairs well with various foods. Some of the things you can munch on with this dip include:
- Seasonal veggies
- Toasted bread
Garlic bread makes for a wonderful appetizer before a big meal. You can also eat it alongside many of the recipes we’ve shared with you. Grab the below ingredients to make this cheesy bread:
- 1/2 cup of grated Pecorino
- Four tablespoons of softened unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup of finely minced parsley
- One loaf of Italian bread
- Two cloves of garlic
Cut your bread in half lengthwise before you make this recipe. Here are the simple instructions for the bread:
- Mix the garlic, parsley, cheese, and butter
- Cover and place in the fridge
- Preheat your oven to 425°
- Put your bread on a baking sheet with the cut side up
- Spread the cheese mixture evenly on both sides
- Bake for about five minutes until golden brown
While this should be enough bread for four people, you might want to make a few loaves so you have enough for the next day.
You might not realize that Pecorino makes an excellent cheese to use when making pesto. You can use pesto for multiple types of meals, such as:
- Sandwich or burger topping
- Spread for bread or crostinis
- Veggie dip
- Stir into your mashed potatoes
- Topping for grilled meats
You can add a big flavor to your favorite dishes with homemade pesto. Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make pesto:
- Two garlic cloves
- Two cups of fresh basil
- 1/4 cup of walnuts or pine nuts
- 2/3 cup of olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup of Pecorino Romano
Pine nuts are the traditional nut that’s used in pesto, but you can swap them out with any nut you have on hand. You can use walnuts as we mentioned, or peanuts, macadamia nuts, or almonds.
Here are the instructions to make pesto:
- Blend the nuts, garlic, and basil in a food processor until everything is chopped
- Add in the oil, blending until smooth
- Season with pepper and salt
- Mix in the cheese
Pesto can last up to two weeks in an airtight container in your fridge. You can also freeze pesto in ice cube trays.
You didn’t think a dessert featuring cheese would be on this list, did you? Seadas is a traditional Sardinian dish. It’s a savory pastry that can function as an entree but is also wonderful as a light dessert.
Seadas were traditionally eaten around Christmas and Easter. They’ve gained popularity in recent years.
Young and fresh Pecorino is key for this dish. You don’t want salty and hard cheese to fill the pastry. Some of the ingredients you’ll need include:
- Four cups of flour
- Four tablespoons of butter or lard
- One cup of cold water
- One pinch of salt
- 10 ounces of cubed Pecorino
- Olive oil (for frying)
- Zest from two lemons
- 3/4 cup of honey
If you want to make a Seada that tastes like the real thing, try to find a wild herb or orange blossom honey. You can also use chestnut honey if you want a more bitter flavor.
Follow these directions to make Seadas:
- Combine the salt and flour in a bowl
- Add the cold water a little bit at a time until you have an elastic dough
- Knead in the butter or lard until it’s well incorporated
- Allow the dough to rest for around 30 minutes
- Melt the cheese over low heat
- Mix in the lemon zest before pouring it onto a pre-lined baking sheet
- Spread out the cheese and let cool
- Cut the cheese into 12 circles with a three-inch cookie cutter
- Roll out the dough to 1/8″ thickness
- Cut into 24 circles using a pastry cutter (about four to five inches wide)
- Put a cheese round in the center of a dough circle
- Top with another dough circle
- Press down the edges with your fingers
- Put olive oil in a wide pan
- Fry the Seadas until golden brown on both sides
- Remove and place on a plate
- Warm the honey before pouring it over the Seadas
These pastries are best served warm when the cheese is still gooey.
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Pecorino cheese is a staple that you should keep in your fridge at all times. Whether you want to top your pasta or pizza with freshly grated cheese or want to whip up a main dish featuring it, you can’t go wrong with Pecorino cheese. Amaze your family and guests with the delectable meals you can create with this cheese.
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