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Parmigiano Reggiano v. Pecorino Romano

Parmigiano Reggiano seems to be the cheese of choice for grating over pasta, salads, etc. I much prefer the tanginess of Pecorino Romano instead, especially over pasta. Parmigiano has kind of a nutty flavor that I enjoy, but seems to get lost on my palate. I find Romano's flavor and aroma stronger and more pungent allowing me to savor it throughout most of my meal.

What are the general rules of cooking/grating for both? Are there general rules at all besides just choosing which cheese you prefer? In other words, how are these cheeses usually paired with foods? I'm looking for information similar to that of how wines compliment certain foods.

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  1. I can't help you with food/cheese pairings.
    One of my few rules in the kitchen is, "You're the one eating it. It's up to you."


    10 Replies
    1. re: Davwud

      Davwud, I pretty much have that down. It's just that usually at restaurants, when offered fresh cheese for grating, it's parmigiano rather than romano. Was just wondering why?

      1. re: sandrina

        Probably simply because parmigiano appeals to more people than romano does. For a lot of people, the aroma of romano is a bit too close to the odor of vomit.

        1. re: Chimayo Joe

          Agreed. It is a stinky, overpowering flavor for some, and that is why it is often used in sauces rather than just grated -- to take advantage of that strong flavor as it holds up better to tomato sauces and other strong flavors. I prefer Parmigiano myself. There is a another cheese out there you might try that is somewhat between the two -- it is called Sardo and it is imported from Argentina.

          1. re: RGC1982

            Sardo is from Sardinia - a hard pecorino (pecora = sheep) cheese imitated by cheesemakers in Argentina, like "Parmigiana Reggianito", which is the much cheaper Argentinean version of Reggiano that too many restaurants serve...

            1. re: pankofish

              I had a creamy sheep's milk pecorino from Sardinia that just knocked my socks off. One of the best things I had ever eaten.

          2. re: Chimayo Joe

            Chimayo Joe, re odor of vomit..... +1! Didn't realize others had the same reaction.

            1. re: msmarm

              It's the butyric acid found in both.

            2. re: sandrina

              Given the choice, I always pick Pec Rom over Parm Reg. Hands down. But some people object to the stinkiness of Pec Rom.

              1. re: southernitalian

                I usually don't use Pecorino Romano, but bought some recently and added it to my pesto, per Hazan's instructions, and it really gave it a nice bite.

          3. I prefer Pecorino with pastas if the ragu is duck; also prefer Pecorino with cauliflower, fava beans, and anything sauteed with garlic/mint/anchovy/red pepper.

            I prefer Parmesan with more delicate butter and egg sauces, veal/beef/pork ragus, asparagus, spinach, and truffles.

            Artichokes can go either way.

            The names of the cheeses suggest a general rule for what goes better with which foods... dishes from Emilia-Romagna will tend to work better with Parm, and Roman dishes will probably work better with Pecorino. You can also generalize that Emilia-Romagnan food is more delicate, refined, and butter based, and foods with those characteristics (even if they're not identifiably Italian) will work better with Parm, and that Roman food is more assertive and olive-oil based, so food with those characteristics will work better with Pecorino.

            That said, one of my favorite pasta dish is Lupa (in NYC)'s Cacio e Pepe, which uses half Pec, half Parm.

            7 Replies
            1. re: daveena

              good rundown daveena!
              I also like caciocavalo somewhere in between pecorino and parm, but more towards the pecorino dishes

              1. re: pitu

                Daveena, that was an EXCELLENT breakdown. I would just add that many of the "Roman" dishes (for lack of a better description) you refer to also call for parmesan. In fact, many of them, such as amatriciana, call for about a 3 to 1 parmesan-to-pecorino ratio. The main reason for this is the amount of cheese needed to achieve the appropriate consistency when mixing the sauce, cheeses, and pasta together; if you used all pecorino it would be far too strong. Even with the 3 to 1 ratio, the pecorino taste is by far the one that stands out.

                1. re: mangiatore

                  Thanks! This is actually a really fun exercise. I thought of a few more:

                  Pecorino - goat and lamb sugos, assertively flavored salumi
                  Parmesan - rabbit, butternut squash, prosciutto/Serrano ham

                  1. re: mangiatore

                    "I would just add that many of the "Roman" dishes (for lack of a better description) you refer to also call for parmesan. In fact, many of them, such as amatriciana, call for about a 3 to 1 parmesan-to-pecorino ratio."

                    They do NOT. Only eccentrics, or restaurants afraid that pecorino romano is too strong for their wimpy clients, would use parmigiano in amatriciana. Carbonara has evolved to take a combination of the two, but restaurants in Rome that observe tradition use only pecorino.

                2. re: daveena

                  Cacio e pepe traditionally is made with only pecorino romano. It is a Roman dish.

                  1. re: daveena

                    There's a Pecorino in Tuscany, Pecorino di Pienza, that is quite different from Pecorino Romana. That Pecorino ranges from the mild fresh version to an aged version -- along with variations such as aged in ash and aged wrapped in vine leaves and, then, buried in a cold running brook. I wouldn't use the two pecorino cheeses interchangeably.

                  2. The rule is: there are no rules! There are quite a number of delicious Italian cheeses that are used (tho definitely NOT exclusively) for grating. The ones that are most widely available and used in US are Parmigiano Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, Grana Padano. Pecorino Romano is made from sheeps milk, and comes from the area around Rome, so that's pretty much what they use there. Parmigiano Reggiano comes from the area around Parma in Emilia Romagna, and is pretty much what they use in that region. Grana Padano is from the Piedmont area and that's what the mostly use there. PR and Grana are cowsmilk cheeses.

                    As far as I know, you're good to go with whichever one you prefer -- and also, whichever one you can find in the store! I like all of them, and altho I sometimes use them interchangeably, I don't think they taste alike. If you can find all three, you might do a little taste test!

                    Personally, I really enjoy Parmigiano Reggiano as an "eating cheese," and I like it especially with Sangiovese wines (from Tuscany). Grana Padano goes really well with Barbera... It's also a tasty eating cheese. They all are!

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: ChefJune

                      FYI Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano are the same type of cheese: grana. The only distinction is that Parmigiano comes from Parma. Grana is made throughout northern Italy.

                      1. re: mangiatore

                        I adidn't say they were two different types of cheese They are not, however, the same cheese, as the cows from which the milk comes eat different foods.

                        1. re: ChefJune

                          I didn't mean to imply that they are the same cheese. Same type of cheese.

                          1. re: ChefJune

                            Huh? PECORINO is not made from cows, but from ewes, as the name clearly shows. I'm allergic to cow's milk, so this is an important matter to me.

                          2. re: mangiatore

                            The main difference is that cows producing Parmigiano-Reggiano eat only grass and cereals (no Silage), and no antibiotics. If a cow is cured by antibiotics she will be suspended from production of Parmigiano.

                            Chemical analysis shows that Parmigiano is a natural source of and has a higher concentration of Monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is a flavor-enhancer.

                            1. re: smarchesini

                              Monosodium glutamate or naturally occurring glutamates? The first is the sodium
                              salt of glutamates. My guess is that it's the latter.

                              1. re: maria lorraine

                                Naturally occurring glutamates are found in PR, as well as sundried tomatoes and some Japanese products. MSG is a synthesized version of these compounds.

                          3. re: ChefJune

                            umm.. ChefJune fYi both Parmigiano and Grana Padano are made throughput the north of Italy and the difference is Grana Padano is made with 50% skim milk and 50% whole milk and Parmigiano is made with about 10 percent naturally skimmed milk from the day before, by letting the milk sit 24 hours the cream rises.

                            1. re: BCIsayso

                              "both Parmigiano and Grana Padano are made throughput the north of Italy"

                              No. Both have specific DOP zones of production. parmigiano-reggiano is made in an area spanning parts of the provinces of Parma, Modena, Reggio Emilia, and Mantova. Grana Padano is made in 27 provinces north of the Po. And pecorino romano, also DOP, is made in parts of Lazio and Sardegna.

                          4. I think parmigiano is just a more wel known cheese and it is milder (cows milk vs. sheep). I think pecorino is paired better with more assertive sauces or when the dish is relatively simple and needs an extra dimension. One recipe that often uses pecorino is spaghetti carbonara, though mario batali's version uses parmigiano, and some use both. I really think it's a personal preference. Any dish of roman origin generally pairs well with pecorino, hence the "romano" in pecorino romano. Here are two recipes that I've made with pecorino that were very good:

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: izzizzi

                              Thanks for those links izzizzi. The linguini recipe seems to simple. Definitely will try this one.

                            2. Parm has a better marketing department and i think people have a comfort zone when offered in a resto.

                              The jfood fridge has three, Parm Reg, Perc Romano and the newest addition Asiago. If the burn rate of the cheese is any indication the Romano and the Asiago are this year's favorites with Parm lagging behind. My lasagne the other night i added the Romano to bake and when I reheated a piece last night i threw on the asiago.

                              So like others have stated, whatever wets your whistle at the time is the right cheese.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: jfood

                                Asiago is my favorite also, I love adding it to chicken marsala and pasta aoli. It's a sharper kick that melts smooth. I find Parm-Reg too mild sometimes (I guess it depend on how good a grade it is).

                                1. re: jfood

                                  In Italy pecorino sardo is probably more known than the roman one.
                                  Parmigiano does not just have a better marketing department, it has very strict rules on what cows can eat, which makes it more expensive. In a restaurant you never get the real thing, even though they may call it that.

                                  1. re: smarchesini

                                    I wouldn't say that any particular pecorino is more well known in Italy. For example, in Tuscany they would naturally say that pecorino toscano is the best/most known.

                                2. something to add to your Parmigiano, Romano, Grano Padano mix is Piave - cow's milk, grateable and munchable

                                  1. I only use pecornino romano as I am allergic to cow's milk, but pecorino is sheep's milk and works great for me. My husband thinks it is a bit saltier, stronger of a flavor than parmigiano.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: lisaf

                                      If he would like to tryeven a little sharper cheese, get him some asiago.

                                    2. Pecorino is made with sheeps milk . Have you ever tried Grana Padano it very close to Reggiano imo it is a litte sweeter tasting.

                                      1. Linguine with plenty of pecorino and black pepper -- simple and delish.

                                        1. Whew!! I thought I was alone with this. I prefer Pecorino over Parm on pasta too. I think it adds a lot more to the overall dish.

                                          1. Parm is probably more popular because so many Americans grew up with Kraft's green can of sawdust cheese. They didn't know the real thing until recently and never met the others unless they were Italian.
                                            All three are wonderful eating cheeses. I always add one of them to a cheese tray.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: MakingSense

                                              Parmigiano is more popular because it's a more refined cheese. Pecorino is really pretty harsh stuff. I love it, but the fact that some people SUBSTITUTE it for parmigiano is crazy. It should never be used in the sweeter, northern Italian dishes, only in dishes where the other ingredients are strong enough that the pecorino won't wash them out (dishes with garlic, parsley, olives, red pepper flakes, etc.).

                                            2. My affection for pecorino is to some extent nostalgic: the first time I was in Italy, I went to the South with my mom to visit my sister's family - her husband was a USAF sergeant assigned to a NATO base near Brindisi. I had gotten well into my adult foodie phase by then, and as it seemed that every alimentari (grocery store) that we entered was filled with the scent of ripe pecorino, that became the signature smell of Italian Food for me for many years.

                                              As for rules about what to use when, I can't think of an instance wherein any of these grating cheeses would not work at all. I will grate what I have over whatever gratin or pasta or whatever I'm making. These days it is mostly parmigiano, just because the Italian deli down the street and around the corner has truly wonderful parmigiano, and very indifferent pecorino. I guess I know that guy's prejudices...

                                              1. This has been a very informative discusssion. One characteristic of parmigiano reggiano that nobody has mentioned thus far is its often overpoweringly salty characteristic. Don't get me wrong.-- I love the stuff, but it seems to be a gamble when you buy it as to whether you are going to get a chunk of wonderful, aromatic cheese, or a salt block. I do not encounter this problem with pecorino or other Italian cheeses and, trust me, I am not, generally, salt-averse. I have no familiarity with Italian brands of cheese. When I buy imported parmigiano reggiano, it is completely blind. Can anyone suggest some widely available Italian brands of parmigiano reggiano that are just normally salty, instead of overpoweringly so? (I ask for "widely available" brands because it sounds like most people in this discussion may come from the New York, New Jersey, or California areas, and I am
                                                in Florida.) Thanks.

                                                20 Replies
                                                1. re: gfr1111

                                                  A salt-blockish tasting parmigiano is the sign that it was cut a really long time ago. I worked in a cheese shop and actually found the pecorino to have this problem more often than the parmigiano, though that might have been because less people bought the pecorino and it sat around for long periods of time. It's too bad you can't taste the cheese, because that's the only way to tell. I recenty bought some really good parm in the grocery (I live in SC so I understand your comment about "widely available"). One thing to always check before buying is that "parmigiano-reggiano" is stamped on the rind. If it's not, it's not D.O.C. and prob not as good. Just avoid domestic ones. Anyway, the name of the one I bought was "Il Villagio" (I think...). Hope that helps some.

                                                  1. re: izzizzi

                                                    Costco has parmigiano reggiano -- the real stuff -- and it's pretty cheap too.

                                                    Pecorino is about the saltiest cheese around, far saltier than parmigiano. I suspect the "parmigiano" you were buying wasn't parmigiano reggiano but some domestic cheese deceptively labeled as parmigiano. This was common up until fairly recently. Remember that 15 years ago almost no one kept a block of parmigiano in their fridge.

                                                    1. re: mangiatore

                                                      Keep in mind that there are multiple types of pecorino, with the romano version being the saltiest. Pecorino toscano isn't particularly salty, and is often consumed with fruit and marmalades. Pecorino sardo is somewhere in between, as is pecorino crotonese.

                                                      1. re: famedalupo

                                                        Is there anywhere to find pecorino toscano in the US? I always look but haven't been successful ...

                                                        1. re: dantastic

                                                          I *think* I've seen it at Di Palo's in Manhattan - don't know if they do mail order, but it's worth calling them - very friendly.

                                                          Edit - I just checked Murray's Cheese's website -


                                                          They have Pecorino Toscano Fresco - don't know if that is what you are looking for, but they do do mail order.

                                                          Di Palo's Fine Foods
                                                          200 Grand St, New York, NY 10013

                                                          1. re: dantastic

                                                            Balducci's, a small chain on the eastern seaboard, carries Pecorino Toscano. The sign in the cheese display doesn't indicate that the cheese is specifically Pecorino di Pienza, the best of the Tuscan Pecorinos. I don't know whether that means the cheese is simply a Tuscan Pecorino or the cheese manager thinks the word "Toscano" is, generally, a more recognizable label than "Pienza."

                                                            1. re: Indy 67

                                                              Interesting link - http://www.italianmade.com/foods/subc...

                                                              Looks like Murray's also carries Pecorino Marzolino - referred to in the link:


                                                              1. re: Indy 67

                                                                The difference in Pecorino Toscano and Pecorino Romana means, Tuscany or Rome as to the production venue. One should learn the general regions of Italy and them would be more knowledgeable of terms and geographic names that appear on products imported from there to the USA. There will be a difference in taste, sometimes subtle, due to environmental differences in the place of production. Earth, air, vegetation fed to animals, all affect the eventual taste of any product.

                                                              2. re: dantastic

                                                                The redoubtable Formaggio Kitchen (Cambridge, MA), which is an American treasure, often carries it, IIRC.

                                                                1. re: dantastic

                                                                  It's always available at my local Whole Foods. It's generally found in its "fresco" form, but sometimes you may see a pecorino toscano "stagionato" - or aged toscano that will more closely approximate sardo/romano.

                                                                  1. re: dantastic

                                                                    Thanks everyone! You've given me some great leads. There is a Balducci's not too far from me, so I will make a trip sometime soon. :)

                                                                    1. re: dantastic

                                                                      Fairway 74th St. carries Pecorino Toscana, usually 2 kinds, and I believe one is called corsigano (sp?).

                                                                2. re: mangiatore

                                                                  <Costco has parmigiano reggiano -- the real stuff -- and it's pretty cheap too.> and, imo, the quality is below par, also. The stuff I've had from there has been OLD!

                                                                3. re: izzizzi

                                                                  Parmegiano gets saltier as it gets older and dries out. I just found a forgotten hunk in the back of my cheese drawer! Whoa!
                                                                  Mangiatore is right. Look at Costco. But read the labels. I think they also carry the Parm from Argentina. You might actually like that one. It is less salty and it's cheaper. Not a bad product even if it's not the "real thing." Argentina has lots of Italians and a substantial Italian influence on their food.
                                                                  A few years ago, only specialty cheese shops carried DOC Parm or the other Italian cheeses. Most Americans used the Kraft Green Can.

                                                                    1. re: tom porc

                                                                      "What do they put in the green can?"

                                                                      Parm flavored sawdust?

                                                                  1. re: gfr1111

                                                                    There aren't individual brands for Parmigiano Reggiano in the sense that we may have a preference for Tropicana or Minute Maid or Florida's Choice orange juice. For P-R cheese, the DOC stamp certifies that the cheesemaker has followed controlled procedures and that experts have tested the quality of the cheese.

                                                                    Still, there are individual cheesemakers and there may be some variability from one to the other even within DOC-qualified producers. One of the steps in the cheesemaking process it to place a band around the wheel of cheese with a raised dot pattern that repeats the words Parmigiano Reggiano. These words get transfered onto the exterior of the cheese. In one area of the band, there is space for the letters DOC and a number. This number, in fact, identifies a specific brand since it corresponds to a specific cheesemaker. However, I don't know where to find a list of cheesemakers and their ID number. Even if you could learn the number of a cheesemaker with an unusually good reputation, it's unlikely you'd be able to act on this information. Once the section of the wheel with the number is gets sold, there's no way of knowing the source in most cheese departments or cheese stores. I doubt the person behind the cheese counter at a Whole Food store has any insight into the source of the cheese he/she is selling. A small, passionate cheese stores might be able to tell a customer the producer of the cheese. For most of us, the DOC official designation is probably as strong an indicator of quality as we're going to get.

                                                                    1. re: Indy 67

                                                                      I love spicy spaghetti sauces so I use Romano as I feel it stands up better. But then, as we've said above, it is what tastes best to you!

                                                                      1. re: Linda VH

                                                                        For Italian-American pasta sauces and gravies, pecorino is the ticket; putting parmigiano on those would be wasting it.

                                                                  2. Why does there have to be an "either/or" on the subject? Both are delicious, as is Grana Padano, and all are different from the others in taste.

                                                                    Because each comes from a different region, they traditionally accompany dishes from their home region... Parmigiano Reggiano from Emilia-Romagna, Pecorino Romano from Lazio, and Grana Padano from Piemonte.

                                                                    1. I love big strong flavors, and always use Pecorino Romano when cooking for myself. I actually like to snack on piece of well aged Romano.

                                                                      My family and friends prefer Parmesan, so I tend to use that when cooking.

                                                                        1. They're both hard cheeses, but made in different regions, so different flavors. Yes PecorinoRomano is stronger in flavor. Both are lovely when sliced thinly (using a shaving cheese tool) and eaten with fresh fruit as an appetiser. Pecorino comes from Rome and Campania whereas Parmigiano comes from way north of there, up in Parma. The Italians are very picky about mixing sauces, cheeses and forms of pasta willy-nilly. A true food hound will at least be familiar with the authentic cuisine features before attempting to mix and match the elements. Buono appetito!

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: willisrm

                                                                            For the record, DOP Pecorino Romano is made in Lazio and Sardinia, and is a special type of pecorino. Pecorino as a general type takes many forms and tastes throughout Italy, with concentrations in Tuscany, Puglia, Calabria, Sicily, Basilicata, and Abruzzo, and less so in Campania. Parmigiano-Reggiano is made only in the provinces of Parma and Reggio=Emilia.

                                                                          2. +1 for Pecorino Romano. Like the stronger flavor more often. Find do not need as much to add flavor. Enjoy goat cheese as a variation. Grates well, slice very thin, or can use a vegetable peeler. Lidia Bastianich on her show Lidia's Italy often reaches for grated Pecorino Romano especially as a topping. I find TJs is the best place to get special fresh reasonably priced Pecorino from Italy out of a wheel with letters stamped on the back. Keeps well in fridge and nibbles nice sliced. Great on dishes including salads, pasta, sandwiches, soups, in sauces, ... Yum.

                                                                            1. We usually have a hunk of hard cheese in the refrigerator for pasta, salads, or just eating with an apple. Sometimes it's parmesan, sometimes it's romano. Usually it depends on the price and what's available at the time of purchase.

                                                                              1. Interesting to see this old thread brought back to life.

                                                                                As to a general rule of cooking for Parmigiano v. Pecorino Romano>>>>>>>>>>>>>

                                                                                I am a new Haven native, home of Sally's and Pepe's Apizza. Mozzarella is an extra on a true New Haven Apizza. Grated cheese is the standard. The pie must be made with Pecrino Romano, as Parmigiano Reggiano burns at the temperatures in a traditional brick pizza oven.

                                                                                I have found that I cannot reliably use Parmigiano as a topping on anything put in the oven or broiler at a temperature of 500F or above. Pecorino handles 800+ F degrees without burning and ruing the food.

                                                                                1. Interesting thread glad to see it revived.

                                                                                  I like to make parmesan crisps (a/k/a frico) for snacking as well as my Three Cheese Crisp Grilled Cheese: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/845369

                                                                                  Has anyone ever tried making crisps with Pecorino? If so how did they come out? Did they crisp? Good flavor?

                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                                                                    Just to confuse things, parmigiano-reggiano is not the technically correct cheese for frico. Montasio, another cow's milk DOP, is. The dish, and cheese, are from the Friuli region, and the cheese is softer than parmigiano.

                                                                                    There is a restaurant in Rome that serves its cacio e pepe pasta in a basket made of pecorino romano. Not a frico, of course, but still. My overenthusiastic husband ate the basket as well as the pasta and had nightmares. Nevertheless, if parmigiano works, I don't see why pecorino romano wouldn't. BTW parmigiano-reggiano is eaten a good year and some months older than pecorino romano as a rule. Don't know about Montasio.

                                                                                    1. re: mbfant

                                                                                      Montasio is not readily available in my area and Parmigiano is what's listed in most recipes I've come across, so that's what I use. When you say your husband had nightmares eating the Pecorino basket, what do you mean? It disagreed with his digestive system? He didn't like it?

                                                                                      1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                                                                        Literally had nightmares that night after eating it. Otherwise no problem.

                                                                                  2. I regard Parmigiano and Pecorino Romano as utterly different cheeses, and they are also regionally distinct in Italy, of course. Parmigiano is better by itself or shaved uncooked with fruits or greens. It is also terrific grated onto delicate pastas, such as a brown-butter ravioli dish. Pecorino Romano is assertive and salty, best grated over hearty pastas and pizzas.

                                                                                    The cheeses are also made from different milks. Parmigiano is cow's milk. Pecorino is sheep's milk. Pecorino Toscana is a very fine cheese, and much less salty than Pecorino Romano. It is closer to what I see here in the USA as Cacio di Roma.

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Bada Bing

                                                                                      Two different taste worlds. Pecorino can be very young and fresh (Cacio di Roma is one version, as is "Marzolino" from Tuscany or "Tuma" from Sicily); pecorinos from all regions are sold at many different stages of aging and sharpness, so it's hard to generalize about pecorino's flavor profile compared to Parmigiano or any other cow's milk grana. I personally prefer anything pecorino, and find that with the olive oil and tomato based dishes of the south, Parmigiano strikes the wrong note. But it's all personal, and my Calabrese dad always insisted on a mix of grated Parmigiano and Pecorino for pasta.

                                                                                      1. re: bob96

                                                                                        Yes, "pecorino" simply means "ewe's milk cheese".

                                                                                    2. I can't even recall the last time I purchased Parmigiano. My household has always been stocked with Pecorino. It's the preferred grating cheese.

                                                                                      1. thanks everyone for this great education. All I knew was that I was taught to put Pecorino Romano on baked eggplant. It does make a difference.

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: laliz

                                                                                          You might even want to make some of that a less-salty "pecorino" (ewe's milk cheese).

                                                                                          1. re: lagatta

                                                                                            I prefer Grana Padano over pasta. I can taste the other ingredients better IMO.