Sunday, June 12, 2011

Big Cheeses: Pecorino Romano

"Big Cheeses" is another segment of mine in which I discuss some of my favorite cheeses. I will generally name one cheese per month, as I do with my other segments, with the option of rule bending always out there. I am only a connoisseur according to people I know or when I consider myself to be one, but I am an enthusiast on the subject. As we all know, cheese is more than a food, it's an art. My favorite happens to be the hard, strong, salty, assertive cheese known as Pecorino Romano. It's not a highlight cheese that's used in our everyday vocabulary, but more so a cheese that those who actually enjoy the field of cheeses eat. If there's any "must cheese" in my book, this is the one.

Pecorino Romano is an Italian cheese made with sheep's milk. Granted, "pecora" is "sheep" in Italian. There is a wide family of "Pecorino" cheeses and not all of them are the same. For instance, you have Pecorino Toscano and Sardo, which come from Tuscany and Sardinia respectively. The term "Romano" refers to the Roman people when it comes to Italy, thus when you mix the two, you get a Roman sheep milk cheese.

In America, Pecorino Romano is most common for being an alternate grating cheese for pasta. The most common is, of course, Parmigiano Reggiano, which is many instances is referred to as "Parmesan" and meets the unfortunate misfortune of being sold in a shaker where it's dried of its moisture and leaving it with a cardboard like taste. While I enjoy eating Parmigiano Reggiano, the proclaimed "King Of Cheese," I think that Pecorino Romano is a better pasta cheese. When eating pasta, Pecorino Romano gives it more of a tang and takes longer to melt. This means the pasta has more of an extra tang to it while eating. The combination of the sauce, cheese, and pasta in general gives the meal a bit more flavor. Parmigiano Reggiano is a bit more passive on a dish of pasta.

Pecorino Romano is sure to play a role in any dish it presides. That's why it can be used with fruit such as grapes. Aside from with pasta or as a device for dipping, my favorite way to eat Pecorino Romano is right on its own. On its own, it becomes a snack that is irresistible. Despite the packaging and how I believe cheese should be given as much breathing rights as possible, my favorite company is Rienzi. I always liked the tang to that specific company. On the other hand, Locatelli and various others are better at packaging, but nevertheless make for a good Pecorino Romano. I grew up on Pecorino Romano cheese on my pasta and families who want to enjoy a delicious pasta dinner should do the same. A wedge is a bit more expensive than pre-packaged cheeses, but this is where the top quality is at.

Pecorino Romano can be found at most to all supermarkets and any other place that features a cheese section. Be prepared for a strong, assertive cheese that has a strong, assertive smell. In the end, you'll be have to have picked up this cheese with a strong, assertive taste. Enjoy the end of the cheese, which I refer to as the "nose." It's the creamiest part, though this is still a creamy enough cheese. Eat and enjoy!

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