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Feb 11, 2010 03:37 AM

Best way to use Pecorino - not as a substitute for Parmesan?

I have some pecorino which I'd like to use as the Italians would - I know there are recipes where Pecorino is specified but I'm not sure which recipes they are. Can you tell me any?

I think I read somewhere recently that it is particularly used for Carbonara but I'm not sure about that.

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  1. For carbonara, use half pecorino, half parmesan. Pecorino is more gutsy, parmesan more refined.

    1. You can use Pecorino for Parmesan-it's a matter of taste. I find that I can buy really good Pecorino for far less than a really good Parmesan (which I find to be overpriced, where price does not equal taste).
      Pecorino is sheep's milk and more piquant. I love it!

      1. I grate 4 oz (by weight, not volume) into meatballs, which I eyeballed the ingredients for during an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay. They're the famed Maroni meatballs.

        1. Just to be clear, "pecorino" is a generic term for any relatively firm Italian cheese made from sheep's milk. There are dozens of pecorinos: Pecorino Toscano, Pecorino Romano, Pecorino Crotonese, Pecorino di Fossa, etc. These cheeses vary greatly in flavor and intensity.

          The type to which you refer is no doubt Pecorino Romano. It is usually too dry and salty to enjoy as a table cheese and is best for grating and cooking, although it's not a good melter. Mcf suggests adding it to meatballs. I would expand that to include other ground meat dishes, such as meatloaf, croquettes, etc., where you want to add a cheesy component. Just cut back on the salt.

          I agree that the choice of Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano can be a matter of taste, especially for sprinkling on pasta. However, I much prefer Parmigiano to Pecorino Romano for risottos and pesto. If you're inclined to experiment with those, I would go half and half.

          5 Replies
          1. re: cheesemaestro

            I disagree--I love cutting it in chunks and nibbling on it. I buy a wedge at Costco of Pecorino Romano and it is very good. I have lots of lactose intolerant friend so this makes a perfect Parmesan substitute that they can eat.

            1. re: sparkareno

              I'm not sure why you think that people who are lactose intolerant can eat Pecorino Romano, but not Parmigiano Reggiano. Real Parmigiano from Italy is aged a minimum of 12 months vs. no more than 8 months for Pecorino Romano. Neither cheese has any appreciable lactose left after aging.

              1. re: cheesemaestro

                Most people that are allergic to cow milk products or who are lactose intolerant can use goat and sheep milk products. The lactose or protein in the milk is what usually causes the allergic reaction or intolerance. Goat & sheep milk both have lactose and protein but it is of a different make up that doesn't bother most people. Parm. Reggiano is from Cow's milk and Pecorino Romano is made from Sheep's milk.

                1. re: californianative

                  This is nonsense. Milk allergy and lactose intolerance are completely different things. Milk allergy is caused by a reaction of the body's immune system to the PROTEIN in milk and cheese. It is possible to be allergic to milk from any animal: cow, sheep, goat or others and to cheeses made from the milk of any animal. While the level and composition of the proteins does vary from one animal to another, the types of protein are very similar, so there is no guarantee that someone who is allergic to cow's milk will be able to tolerate sheep's or goat's milk. Furthermore, turning milk into cheese generally doesn't make it safe for people who have a true milk allergy, as the protein is retained in the cheese.

                  Lactose intolerance refers to an inability to properly digest the SUGAR in milk. It has nothing to do with protein. Lactose is made up of two simple sugars: glucose and galactose, which, unlike lactose itself, can be digested. People who are lactose intolerant lack a sufficient amount of the enzyme lactase, which is needed to break lactose down into its two component sugars. Lactose is exactly the same in cow's, sheep's and goat's milk (although the percentage of lactose is a little different in each one), so if one can't drink cow's milk, one most likely won't be able to drink sheep's or goat's milk either.

                  However, turning milk into cheese can make things a whole lot easier for the lactose intolerant person. At the very start of the cheesemaking process, bacteria are introduced into the milk that begin to "eat" the lactose and convert it to lactic acid. Over time, the amount of lactose is further reduced. Aged cheeses like Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino Romano have very little, if any, lactose and thus are well tolerated by the vast majority of those who are lactose intolerant. The fact that one cheese is made from cow's milk and the other from sheep's milk isn't a factor here. What is relevant is the age of the cheeses.

                  1. re: cheesemaestro

                    When I tried my then 8 mo. old baby on cow's milk, she had a terrible allergic skin reaction to it, so I stopped giving it to her. A few weeks later, she had the exact same reaction to goat's milk. She isn't and wasn't lactose intolerant, and she had no apparent reactions later on.

          2. Thanks. I was expecting that if pecorino came from a particular area, then there would be particular dishes from that area where only pecorino will be used.

            I will have a quick re-read of claudia roden and see if she says much about it.

            1 Reply
            1. re: kookiegoddess

              I second Cacio e pepe. A must-make dish if you want Pecorino to be the star.