Pecorino is the name given to all Italian cheeses made from sheep's milk. It covers a wide variety of cheeses produced around the country, but specifically it refers to four main varieties of Pecorino, all of which enjoy PDO protection. These hard ewes’ milk cheeses from central Italy and the island of Sardinia have established a very good export market outside Italy.
Of these four, Pecorino Romano from Sardinia, Lazio and Tuscan Province of Grosseto is the most widely known outside of Italy. The remaining three mature PDO cheeses are Pecorino Sardo from Sardinia, Pecorino Siciliano from Sicily and Pecorino Toscano from Tuscany.
Pecorinos are traditional, creamery, hard, drum-shaped cheeses. They come in a variety of flavours determined by their age. Aged Pecorinos referred to as ‘stagionato’ are hard and crumbly in texture with buttery and nutty flavours. Young or ‘semi-stagionato’ and ‘fresco’ Pecorinos feature a softer texture with mild, creamy flavours. A good Pecorino will have smooth, hard rind that is pale straw to dark brown in colour. The rind will vary in colour, depending on the age of the cheese, and may include a protecting coating of lard or oil. Its compact interior is white to pale yellow in colour, with irregular, small eyes.
Today, this classic Italian cheese is available in many flavours including Pecorino Pepato spiced with black peppercorns or red chili. Pecorino is a preferred cheese in many pasta cheeses and an obvious choice in Italian regions where the cheese is produced. Also, it served as a good substitute for the expensive Parmigiano-Reggiano.