(in humble tribute to the 6 million sheep of Sardinia and the rest of Italy, rarely attributed their due)
Pecorino Romano, referenced in many Italian recipes, but equally hard to find around my town, is that miracle of ewe’s milk that in Roman times reputedly surpassed cow’s milk because it was thought to “help the stomach”. Like so many Italian Regional topics of myriad variety, this is one of the most confusing.
It is an over-simplification to say that all Pecorino is not the same, and that cheese cultures
in Italy vary from region to region. It is revered similarly in comparison to perhaps a patron saint when Di Bruno Bros. importers calls it “A tincture containing the essence of a Mediterranean isle.” It is ceremoniously served in Italy’s finest hotels and restaurants with all the pomp and circumstance one might award a dish of extinct eels.
The “fully stagionato” are “aged” for as long as 36 months. Some are “matured under ashes”, some bear a stamp, or brand; one from the Val d’Orcia in Tuscany recognizable by its black rind is the pecorino di Pienza, reputedly loved by Lorenzo de Medici. The brine gets a bit muddy when it appears that the Pecorino Romano Locatello® brand, sold in the premium price category exclusively in the U.S. market, also has a black rind. The brand originated in 1860 in Lombardy and is imported from Sardinia and the Lazio Region. Pecorino “sardo” of Sardinia is used in the deep fried “seadas”, a sweet and savory dessert of Sardinia (shown below), or with peaches and pears or a glass of the local red cannonau wine.
Pecorino Romano, one of Italy’s oldest and most famous cheeses, loses much of its acidity when cooked into a sauces such as carbonara, amatriciana and cacio e pepe. Different than Tuscan pecorino, the Sicilian Pecorino siciliano stands head and shoulders high in flavor, often eaten only on its own reserve wrapped in a vine leaf, a rival in taste to none other and pompously served, of course.
Who is to know that when it comes to pecorino, the complexities of this artisan recipe addition can mean so much to the success of a dish and occupy one’s research so laboriously long.
I think it is the sheep that make the countryside so dear.