What makes Pecorino so good?
Pecorino cheese gets its name from the word pecora, Italian for “sheep” as it is, unsurprisingly, made from sheep’s milk.
There are many kinds of pecorino made traditionally throughout Italy, varying from region to region and sheep to sheep, the most famous ones being Pecorino Romano (from Rome), Pecorino Sardo (Sardinian) and Pecorino Toscano.
Pecorinos can be aged or young, dry, salty, and sharp, or mild, sweet, and soft. All pecorinos have a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin), and most fall under larger groupings based on the regions in which they’re produced for example Pecorino Romano, Pecorino Sardo, Pecorino Toscano, and Pecorino Siciliano.
The best way to understand a pecorino is in terms of its age. Aged pecorinos (which would be considered so when aged 6 or more months) tend to be drier, dense, and firm, with increasingly assertive flavours and more crumbly texture developing over time. At best, these are the cheeses that become crystalline, nutty, and satisfyingly toothsome, with flavours ranging from gamey to smokey to sweet. At worst, they turn sandy, salty, and unbalanced.
How to use it
In terms of cooking, these are the best cheeses for finishing dishes, as you would use Parmigiano Reggiano. They’re denser, easily grateable, and salty, so when they’re good, they add a nuanced salty-fatty thing to your dishes. These aged cheeses make some of the most successful pairing partners to red wines, because their fat content can stand up to the intensity that comes with richer wines.