Cheese lovers, brace yourselves!
If you’re a fan of Italian cuisine, then you’re probably already familiar with Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano Reggiano, two of the most popular cheeses from Italy. They both have a rich history and are highly regarded for their unique flavors and textures.
But what’s the difference between the two? Is one better than the other? In this article, we’ll take a closer look at Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano Reggiano, comparing and contrasting their taste, texture, and origin. Whether you’re a cheese connoisseur or just a curious foodie, this article will leave you with a better understanding and appreciation of these two iconic Italian cheeses.
So, let’s dive in and explore the world of Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano Reggiano!
History and Origin of Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano Reggiano
Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano Reggiano are two of the oldest and most celebrated cheeses in Italy.
Pecorino Romano is in the family of hard, salty cheeses made from sheep’s milk that has been produced in the Lazio region of Italy for over 2,000 years. It was originally produced in the countryside around Rome and was a staple food for the Roman legions.
Parmigiano Reggiano, on the other hand, is a hard, dry cheese made from cow’s milk that has been produced in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy for over 900 years. It was first produced in the area around Parma and Reggio Emilia and was considered a luxury item by the nobility.
Both cheeses are protected by the European Union’s Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) regulations, which means that they can only be produced in specific regions using traditional methods. This ensures that the cheeses are made according to strict standards and that their quality and authenticity are maintained—no cheese substitutes here!
Differences in Production Process
The production process for Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano Reggiano is quite different, and this is clearly reflected in their taste and texture.
Pecorino Romano is a sheep’s milk cheese that is heated and curdled using rennet. The curds are then cut and drained before being placed into molds and salted. The cheese is then left to mature for at least eight months before it can be eaten.
Parmigiano Reggiano, on the other hand, is a cow’s milk cheese that is also heated and curdled using rennet. The curds are then cut and cooked before being molded into large wheels. The wheels are then immersed in a brine solution for several weeks before being left to mature for at least 12 months, and up to 36 months for the highest quality cheeses.
The longer maturation period for Parmigiano Reggiano gives it a more complex flavor and a crumbly texture, while Pecorino Romano is saltier and firmer.
A final note: Parmigiano Reggiano to PDO cheese that derives from Italy; parmesan cheese, while obviously very similar, is unregulated and more generic, and the aging process is often much shorter than Parmigiano Reggiano. So parmesan cheese is more of an off-brand Parmigiano Reggiano.
Texture and Flavor Profile of Pecorino Romano
Pecorino Romano has a hard, crumbly texture and a sharp, salty flavor that makes it a popular ingredient in restaurant-quality Italian cuisine. It is often used as a grating cheese in pasta dishes, salads, and soups, and is also delicious when served on its own with bread or crackers.
The texture of Pecorino Romano can vary depending on its age, with younger cheeses being softer and creamier, while older cheeses are firmer and more crumbly. The flavor of Pecorino Romano is quite intense and can be quite salty, which makes it a good cheese for adding flavor to dishes.
Texture and Flavor Profile of Parmigiano Reggiano
Parmigiano Reggiano has a hard, grainy texture and a nutty, slightly sweet flavor that makes it a versatile ingredient in many dishes. Its texture allows it to be grated easily, making it a popular cheese for pasta dishes, risottos, and soups. It is also delicious when served on its own or with fruit and nuts.
The flavor of Parmigiano Reggiano is more complex than Pecorino Romano, with a nutty, slightly sweet taste that is balanced by a slightly bitter finish. The longer maturation process gives it a more intense flavor and a crumbly texture that is perfect for grating.
Nutritional Comparison of Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano Reggiano
Both Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano Reggiano are high in protein and calcium, making them a nutritious addition to a balanced diet. However, they do differ in their nutritional content.
Pecorino Romano is higher in fat and calories than Parmigiano Reggiano, with 110 calories and 9 grams of fat per ounce, compared to 82 calories and 5 grams of fat for Parmigiano Reggiano. However, Pecorino Romano is also higher in protein and calcium, with 8 grams of protein and 636 milligrams of calcium per ounce, compared to 7 grams of protein and 331 milligrams of calcium for Parmigiano Reggiano.
Both cheeses are also high in sodium, with Pecorino Romano containing 370 milligrams of sodium per ounce, compared to 330 milligrams of sodium for Parmigiano Reggiano.
Price Comparison and Availability
The price and availability of Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano Reggiano can vary depending on where you live and where you buy them. In general, Parmigiano Reggiano is more widely available and more expensive than Pecorino Romano.
In the United States, Parmigiano Reggiano can cost anywhere from $18 to $30 per pound, while Pecorino Romano is typically priced between $10 and $15 per pound. However, prices can vary depending on the brand, quality, and location.
Both cheeses can be found in specialty cheese shops, as well as in some supermarkets and online retailers.
Culinary Uses of Pecorino Romano
Pecorino Romano is a staple ingredient in many Italian dishes, especially pasta dishes. It’s often used as a grating cheese, added to sauces and soups to add flavor and texture. And it’s also quite delicious when served on its own with bread or crackers, or as a component of a cheese board.
One popular dish that uses Pecorino Romano is spaghetti alla carbonara, a classic Roman dish made with spaghetti, pancetta, eggs, and cheese. The cheese is grated over the top of the dish just before serving, adding a salty, savory flavor to the creamy sauce.
Another popular dish that uses Pecorino Romano is Cacio e Pepe (see below), a simple pasta dish made with spaghetti, Pecorino Romano, and black pepper. The cheese is grated over the top of the dish, adding a salty, nutty flavor that complements the spicy black pepper.
Culinary Uses of Parmigiano Reggiano
Parmigiano Reggiano is one of the most versatile cheeses in Italian cuisine. It is often used as a grating cheese, added to pasta dishes, risottos, and soups to add flavor and texture. It is also delicious when served on its own with fruit and nuts, or as a component of a cheese board.
One popular dish that uses Parmigiano Reggiano is Risotto alla Parmigiana, a classic Italian rice dish made with Parmigiano Reggiano, butter, and chicken broth. The cheese is grated over the top of the dish just before serving, adding a nutty, savory flavor to the creamy rice.
Another popular dish that uses Parmigiano Reggiano is eggplant Parmigiana, a classic Italian dish made with layers of eggplant, tomato sauce, and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. The cheese is grated over the top of the dish, adding a nutty, slightly sweet flavor that complements the savory tomato sauce.
Or, as with halloumi, you can always just top a salad with Parmigiano Reggiano to add a little extra flavor.
Some Popular Traditional Italian Dishes That Incorporate Pecorino Romano
While Parmesan and Pecorino can be used as substitutes for one another, it’s best to stick to the cheese specified in the recipe.
If you do need to substitute Pecorino for Parmesan, be aware that Pecorino has a saltier taste, so you should use slightly less to keep the dish from being too salty. If you’re using Parmesan as a substitute for Pecorino, keep in mind that it won’t have the same tangy, salty flavor, and you may need to adjust the seasoning accordingly.
Pasta Cacio e Pepe
One of the four fundamental types of Roman pasta prepared with Pecorino Cheese is a simple pasta dish consisting of cheese and pepper.
Tonnarelli, a type of pasta similar to Lazio’s Maccheroni alla Chitarra, is traditionally used, but classic spaghetti is now more commonly used. The recipe includes a considerable quantity of grated Pecorino Romano cheese and black pepper. The pasta is cooked until it reaches an al dente consistency, then mixed with the cheese and pepper blend and some starchy pasta water to create an emulsified mixture.
While Cacio e Pepe may seem to be a simple dish, it necessitates a high degree of skill on the chef’s part to emulsify the sauce without it breaking or clumping.
Bucatini (or Spaghetti) all’Amatriciana
Amatriciana blanco or Pasta alla Gricia is a dish that is sometimes referred to as the white version of the famous Italian tomato-based pasta dish called Sugo alla Amatriciana.
It is said to have originated in the town of Amatrice and gained popularity in Rome during the early 19th century. The sauce is made of a tomato base with spicy flavorings such as pepper, sauteed guanciale, olive oil and Pecorino Romano cheese. The use of other ingredients such as onion, garlic or basil is not always well-received, with onions being particularly frowned upon as they can alter the flavor of the sauce.
However, some establishments still use them, which can be a source of controversy.
Popular Italian Dishes for Parmigiano Reggiano
Parmesan cheese is particularly well-suited for dishes that bear its name, such as chicken parmesan or eggplant parmesan (see below).
Its nutty and mildly salty flavor is also ideal for enhancing the taste of various other dishes, including shrimp fettuccine alfredo, spaghetti with oil and garlic, and risotto. Additionally, it is recommended that you don’t throw away the rinds of parmesan cheese, as they can be used to add savory depth to stocks, soups, and sauces.
Finally, chunks of Parmigiano cheese can be used to create cheese boards, particularly for longer-aged varieties.
Eggplant parmesan is a perennial favorite, despite the lengthy cooking process involved in making it.
For those who haven’t tried it yet, it’s an Italian cuisine comprising eggplant slices that are coated with flour and breadcrumbs. These are baked with layers of marinara sauce and melted cheese.
Eggplant parmesan is a must-have for anyone fond of Italian food. It’s similar to chicken parmigiana, but instead of chicken, you substitute eggplant to make it a vegetarian dish. Furthermore, you can opt for two cooking methods, either frying or baking. While frying requires a considerable amount of oil to brown the breaded eggplant, the latter method involves baking the breaded eggplant on a tray in the oven, which is a healthier and lighter option.
Regardless of the cooking method, the dish is delicious.
Add Flavor to Your Meal With Delicious Italian Cheeses
So, which cheese is right for you?
It really depends on your personal taste and culinary preferences. If you prefer a saltier, sharper cheese that is perfect for grating over pasta dishes, then Pecorino Romano might be the right choice. If, on the other hand, you prefer a nutty, slightly sweet cheese that is versatile and delicious in many dishes, then Parmigiano Reggiano might be the way to go.
Whichever cheese you choose, Cräveble is here to help. We deliver exceptional-quality meals from your favorite restaurants right to your doorstep. So what are you waiting for? Sign up today for a free account, and buon appetito!