Pecorino! Even the name seems to contain a piece of Italy! This time it’s not about cheese, but about a whole family of Italian cheese made from sheep’s milk. The predecessor of his name was the word pecora, which means "sheep." As many as 8 varieties of pecorino (Pecorino) classified as DOP. Of course, getting to know your large family is not an easy task. But to find out the details of the life of its brightest representative, Pecorino Romano, on the contrary, will be extremely interesting.
Varieties of the DOP category
In Italy, there are a large number of varieties of pecorino. They are produced in 12 regions: Tuscany (Toscana), Abruzzo, Emilia Romagna, Umbria, Marche, Marche, Lazio, Campania, Puglia , Basilicata (Basilicata), Sardinia (Sardegna), Calabria (Calabria), Sicily (Sicilia).
Despite the fact that only 8 varieties have a protected name by origin, however, the rest of the family members are included in the list of "Traditional Italian Products" developed by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. Their production is also regulated.
So, what varieties are classified as DOP:
Pecorino Romano - Sheep milk cheesemanufactured in Sardinia, in Lazio and in the province of Grosseto. The whole process of processing, starting from breeding cows and even getting rennet, should occur in the manufacturing area. The shape of the heads is cylindrical with flat faces with a diameter of 25-35 cm and a height of 25-40 cm. Weight can range from 25 to 30 kg. The consistency is dense with a small number of holes, the color is light yellow. The taste is salty, aromatic, spicy, slightly spicy.
Pecorino Toscano (Pecorino Toscano) - semi-hard cheese from the regions of Lazio, Tuscany, Umbria. Heads are cylindrical in shape with flat faces 15-22 cm in diameter, 7-11 cm high. The weight of one head is from 750 g to 3.5 kg. The cheese body is tender, light yellow. The color of the crust depends on its processing and can be either black or reddish. The taste is soft with a bright aroma.
Pecorino Sardo (Pecorino Sardo) - the only cheese whose homeland is Sardiniafalling into the category of products with a protected name. Available in 2 different ripening times: sweet (Dolce) and mature (Maturo). Sweet cheese is aged 20 to 60 days. It has a cylindrical shape with flat faces and slightly convex sides. The mass of the head is from 1 to 2.3 kg. The crust is smooth, thin, pale straw. The cheese body is soft white. The taste is sweet, aromatic, has a slight acidity. Mature cheese is aged for more than 2 months. Heads weighing from 1.7 to 4 kg are cylindrical. The crust is smooth, the color of the mass from straw to brown (with age it becomes darker). Spicy taste is pronounced. The options differ from each other by the color of the label: green for Dolce and blue for Maturo.
Pecorino di Filiano is a hard cheese made from raw milk in the province of Potenza. It has a cylindrical shape with slightly convex sides (diameter 15-30 cm, height 8-18 cm). Head weight 2.5-5 kg. The exposure time is at least 180 days. The crust is from golden yellow to dark brown (depending on age), has shallow grooves from the basket in which the cheese ripens. The cheese mass is dense, from white to straw, there are small, unevenly distributed holes. The taste is sweet, delicate, with more mature cheeses it becomes a little spicy.
Pecorino Crotonese (Pecorino Crotonese) - hard, semi-cooked sheep’s cheese, originally from the province of Crotone (Crotone). Currently, it is also produced in the Calabrian provinces of Catanzaro and Cosenza. Available in three varieties: fresh (Fresco) with an aging of less than 2 months, semi-solid (Semiduro) - from 2 to 3 months, mature (Stagionato) - more than six months. Fresco has a thin crust of white or light yellow. The body is soft, smooth, milky white with a small number of holes. The taste is soft, slightly tart. Semiduro has a thick, pale brown surface. The consistency is elastic with rare holes. The taste is intense, harmonious. Stagionato has a solid brown top. The body is the color of straw. The taste is intense, spicy. The shape of the crotonese heads is cylindrical with flat sides and a weight of 0.5 to 5 kg. The mass of ripe cheese reaches 10 kg. The height of the cylinders varies from 6 to 20 cm, diameter - from 10 to 30 cm (dimensions depend on the weight of the head).
Pecorino di Pichinisko (Pecorino di Picinisco) - cheese from raw milk of sheep, made in Lazio. The heads are produced in the form of cylinders with flat faces 12-25 cm in diameter, 7-12 cm in height, weighing 0.7-2.5 kg. Available in two variations: Scamosciato (literally "Suede") and Stagionato (seasoned). Scamosciato (maturity 30-60 days) has a thin, wrinkled, straw-yellow crust. The cheese body is resilient with few holes. The taste is sweet with a pronounced aroma of high mountain pastures. Stagionato (aged more than 90 days) has a wrinkled yellow surface and straw-yellow, elastic dough. The taste is pronounced, rich, spicy.
Pecorino Siciliano (Pecorino Siciliano) or Sicilian Pecorino - a product obtained from sheep’s milk in the territory of Sicily. On the island, it is the oldest cheese. It is semi-solid, yellow in color and cylindrical in shape with slightly concave bases. The cheese body is resilient with few holes. The more oily liquid flowing out of the holes during slicing, the higher the fat content of the cheese. The taste is pleasant, spicy, slightly salty, intensifying with age.
Delle balce volterrane
Pecorino delle Balze Volterrane (Pecorino delle Balze Volterrane) - a relatively young member of the list of products with a protected name (received the DOP category in February 2015) from the Tuscany region. For its manufacture, vegetable rennet is used, which gives the cheese notes of flowers and plants. Exposure lasts from 2 months. The shape of the heads is cylindrical with convex sidewalls (diameter 5-15 cm, weight 0.6-2 kg). The color of the crust is from pale yellow to straw. The texture is friable with unevenly distributed holes. The taste is spicy, intense.
All cheeses are distinguished not only by a small difference in the technology of preparation, but also by unique, dissimilar tastes. Each pecorino derives its characteristic aroma from several components: pasture forbs, climatic conditions of the territory, and cooking traditions. But, nevertheless, the most common and deeply beloved species is Pecorino Romano. We will lead our story about him.
Only a few cheeses in the world boast such an ancient history as pecorino romano. The first evidence of him is found in the Roman Empire. He was mentioned by such famous authors as Pliny the Elder, Mark Terence Varron, Virgil. In his treatise "De re rustica" Lucius Yuni Columella describes in detail the technology for processing sheep’s milk.
Pecorino was an integral guest on the tables during the celebrations in the imperial palace. And the ability to long-term storage and high nutritional value made it the main food of the Roman soldiers. A piece of cheese weighing 27 g was served to the legionnaires as an addition to bread and soup.
Despite the fact that the homeland of Pecorino Romano is the Lazio region (romano means "Roman"), most manufacturers are now located in Sardinia. Of the 270 thousand tons of cheese produced annually, 250 thousand (95%) are made by Sardinian factories. This happened due to the fact that in 1884 the mayor of Rome legally prohibited its manufacture in the city. This forced cheese suppliers to move cheese plants to the island. Due to the growing popularity of pecorino romano, there, in addition to large factories, many small private cooperatives for its production were opened. Manufacturers later won a lawsuit against prohibiting Roman law, but most of them never returned there.
In 1951, after the conference in Stresa, Pecorino Romano was assigned to the products with the name controlled by origin (DOC). Only the factories of Sardinia agreed to make cheese according to strict rules. Currently, in the Lazio region, there are only two large enterprises that have preserved the ancient Roman traditions of production. One of them is Brunelli, a leading company in the pecorino market.
In 1979, at the request of the producers of Sardinia and Lazio, the Pecorino Romano Cheese Consortium was convened to oversee its production. And in 1996, cheese received the status of a product with a protected name by origin (DOP).
An interesting fact is that in the 2014-2015 Italian football championship, the logo of Pecorino Romano adorned the T-shirts of the Cagliari club.
How to cook in production
Today, the original Pecorino Romano is produced in only three regions: Lazio, Sardinia and Tuscany. Most of the manufacturing process is still manual.
Fresh milk obtained from sheep grazing on pastures in production areas is transported to cheese dairies in refrigeration units under close monitoring. The raw materials undergo heat treatment, but the temperature should not exceed 68 degrees, and the time - 15 seconds.
In the vats with milk pour the starter starter "scotta innesto", which is prepared daily. It is one of the characteristic components of pecorino romano and consists of a group of thermophilic lactic acid bacteria.
Next, the rennet obtained from the lamb is added to the milk and heated to a temperature of 38-40 degrees to coagulate. When a dense curd clot appears, the cheese maker breaks it into particles the size of a grain of wheat. It is worth noting that the achievement of the optimal moment for this procedure is not regulated by time, but is determined visually by the master. Then the cheese is cooked at a temperature not exceeding 48 degrees.
The resulting clot is placed in a mold for draining whey. For several days, the cheese matures in warm and humid rooms in order to stimulate the acidification of cheese dough. Then it is cooled and marked, knocking out with the help of matrices: name, logo (stylized head of a sheep), abbreviation of the manufacturer and date of manufacture. The ambassador is carried out both by the dry ancient method and by immersion in brine, and lasts about 70 days in rooms with high humidity and at a temperature of 12 degrees.
Further ripening takes place in less humid rooms at 10 degrees. Exposure lasts at least 5 months. After 8 months, pecorino romano can be sold in grated form.
US manufacturers produce Romano cheese, but it should not be confused with the original pecorino romano. DOP products are only available in Italy.
What to replace and how to eat
Due to the relatively high salinity, pecorino romano is often eaten as a component of a dish. This distinguishes it from the species of Tuscany and Sardo, they are consumed independently or as part of sandwiches.
Very often, Italian mistresses of parmesan in recipes replace pecorino romano, while reducing the amount of salt. It perfectly proves to be grated in soups, salads, pastas. They are seasoned with stewed or baked vegetables.
Recently, the combination of salty and sweet has become popular, not only among gourmets, but also among ordinary consumers. And if you prefer such a taste variation, you will get indescribable pleasure by tasting pecorino romance with honey, pears or chocolate.
Cheese is a wonderful aperitif for both young wines (Velletri, Cesanese Piglio), and for mature dry varieties (Brunello di Montalcino, Carignano del Sulcis). It goes well with light beer.
Pecorino Romano should be stored in the refrigerator in a vacuum container or tightly wrapped with cling film. If you are going to eat cheese on your own in a cheese plate, then get it out of the refrigerator at least 1 hour in advance. So he will maximize his taste.
Give your piggy bank an unusual recipe from the usual ingredients.
Semolina Gnocchi Recipe
Gnocchi is an Italian version of Russian dumplings. All that you need for them is usually in the lockers of each mistress:
- Semolina 250 g;
- Milk 1 L;
- Butter 70 g;
- Egg yolks 3 pcs;
- Pecorino Romano 100 g;
- Salt, pepper, nutmeg, vegetable oil (ideally olive) to taste.
In a suitable pan, heat the milk with salt and pepper. Once it boils, add semolina and stir vigorously to avoid lumping. Cook, continuing to stir, for 3-4 minutes until the porridge is cooked. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Next, add the yolks, half the butter, nutmeg, ¼ part of the grated pecorino romano and mix thoroughly.
Form balls from warm dough. Put them on a baking sheet greased with vegetable oil. Drop a few drops of oil on each gnocchi and squeeze the balls with a spatula to a thickness of 0.5 cm. Let them cool completely, sprinkle with the remaining cheese and grated butter. Bake in the oven at 200 degrees for 5 minutes. As a sauce for semolina gnocchi, tomato ketchup is perfect.
Of course, you can replace pecorino romano in recipes, but you can not help but lose the flavor of the dish. As an alternative, Russian chefs can choose:
- Parmesan analog;
- Sheep cheese from sheep’s milk (to preserve the beneficial properties of pecorino);
- The most economical, but not the best option is any Russian hard cheese (Kostroma, Poshekhonsky).
Calorie content and benefits
The calorie content and useful qualities of pecorino romano are determined primarily by the use of sheep’s milk for its preparation.
100 g of cheese contains:
- 392 kcal;
- Proteins 25.8 g;
- Fats 32 g;
- Carbohydrates 0.2 g;
- Cholesterol 93 mg;
- Calcium 1162 mg (75% of the daily value);
- Sodium 1800 mg;
- Potassium 90 mg;
- Phosphorus 590 mg.
The high content of protein (the main building material of the body) makes pecorino romano an indispensable component of the diet of athletes, adolescents and pregnant women.
Although the fat content in cheese is quite large, it must be emphasized that the level of unsaturated lipids in it is much higher than that of cow milk products.
Studies of pecorino romano demonstrated the specific effect of conjugated linoleic acid, a significant amount contained in the product. They proved that the daily use of pecorino:
- Prevents cancer of the skin, mammary glands and stomach;
- Reduces body mass index;
- Reduces the risk of heart disease;
- Increases immune defense.
Calcium and phosphorus are important elements in the healthy state of bones and teeth. Calcium is involved in the proper functioning of nerves, muscles and in blood coagulation processes. Potassium, which is part of the cheese, normalizes the work of the heart.
Pecorino is rich in vitamins A and E, which have powerful antioxidant activity, fight signs of aging, skin and eye diseases.
Vitamin D contained in sheep’s cheese is involved in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, prevents type 2 diabetes, heart failure, and lowers blood pressure.
In addition to these substances, pecorino romano contains vitamin C and B vitamins, which are involved in the functioning of most body systems.
But, despite these useful properties, it is not worth abusing pecorino romano. Due to the high fat content and significant salt content, people who have problems with cholesterol and high blood pressure should especially eat cheese. A daily serving in a healthy diet is 30-40 g.
Price per 1 kg in Russia and Italy
To say that pecorino romano on the shelves of Russian stores “you will not find in the afternoon with fire” means to say nothing.But, going to the open spaces of the domestic Internet, you can come across options with unconfirmed originality at a price of 2000 to 3500 rubles per 1 kg. In this case, the most common packaging is 200 g.
Arriving in Italy, you can easily find this favorite and healthy cheese in many cheese boutiques. The use of sheep’s milk a priori makes pecorino romano a rather expensive cheese. But its unusualness and usefulness are an occasion in order to fork out at least once in a lifetime.
You can buy cheese in his home country at a price of 16 to 30 euros per 1 kg of pecorino romano DOP.
The entertaining story about pecorino is over. We hope that, with one hand flipping through this page, with the other you are already packing things in a suitcase for a trip to Italy. Eat healthy, live honestly, travel without limits and remember: "There is no silver lining, and pecorino without sheep!"