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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.

            2. Pasta cacio e pepe is a classic, simple way to use pecorino. Smitten Kitchen posted a recipe for it today: http://smittenkitchen.com/2010/02/spa...

              1 Reply
              1. re: Katherine H

                Such a comfort meal. I used to eat this all the time as a kid because I wouldn't touch red sauce! I still enjoy this dish and it is also fantastic with some arugula mixed in. The heat of the pasta wilts it just right.

              2. Yes I have seen the cacio e pepe post from Smitten! She always seems to post the right things at the right time for me. Thanks.

                1. Fettuccine alfredo with pecorino romano is amazing. Hot pasta, warm half and half, butter, grated pecorino, salt and pepper, and lots of chopped parsley. So delicious.

                  1. Agreed about Pasta cacio e pepe.... I could eat it every day and tend to always have pecorino from Trader Joe's to make it. It is great anytime, but it particularly good late night.

                    Also, below is an incredible appetizer from Patricia Wells. You need a block of pecorino for it, to make small cubes. It is just wonderful:

                    WALNUT PECORINO SALAD

                    Toast some fresh walnut halves then, when cool, toss them with a little olive oil, some lemon juice, dried oregano, fresh flat least parsley (chopped), salt and pepper and cubed pecorino. (The harder the cheese, the better, for eating). As in such a simple dish, high quality ingredients really pay off. I imagine you could do it with sage and rosemary as well. But it is so good, I've never deviated from the recipe.

                    1. Saute some minced garlic and crushed red pepper in butter or butter and olive oil until fragrant. Todd with hot angel hair, a tiny bit of pasta cooking water, and pecorino romano. So simple, and so delicious.

                      1. Yeah, you no doubt probably have Pecorino Romano. Grate that and sprinkle it into a nice Stracciatella Romana (forget that Reggiano even exists a moment). Think Rome, not Parma. Pecorino Romano is an excellent cheese for this soup dish.

                        My favorite Pecorino cheese, well I have two actually. One is the Canestrato di Moliterno DOP, and the other is Pecorino Crotonese. Their flavors are likely nothing like the cheese you have. These cheeses are much stronger in flavor, and have a certain earthiness to them. I use them both sparingly in recipes because of their intensity.

                        1. Being born and raised in New Haven, a true APIZZA is not made with mozzarella.,..
                          Instead grated Pecorino Romano is sprinkled on top of the sauce before baking.
                          Parmesan will NOT stand up to the high heat of traditional coal or wood pizza ovens.

                          I make all my Apizza with pecorino, and will even grate it on top of any pizza made with mozzarella.

                          1. Pecorino Romano is the traditional cheese to sprinkle on Bucatini Amatriciana.

                            I also use it half and half in Carbonara.

                            1. Artichoke salad with pecorino

                              4 baby artichokes
                              3 cups of white wine
                              5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
                              1 1/2 ounces shaved young Pecorino Toscano/Romano cheese
                              10 mint leaves, thinly sliced plus whole leaves for garnish
                              2 handfuls of shelled walnuts, coarsely chopped
                              1 lemon

                              Cut off artichoke stems and discard. Clean the artichokes, removing all outer leaves until you have only the tender hearts. Cut off green tips. Put these in water with fresh lemon juice so the leaves do not turn brown. Slice the artichoke hearts julienne style (very thin). Drop sliced artichoke into the acidulated water. Repeat with remaining artichokes.
                              In medium saucepan, bring about 1 cup of water and 3 cups of white wine to a boil. Add salt, then artichoke and boil them for 3 minutes.
                              Drain artichokes and transfer in a large bowl. Add a good handful of coarsely chopped walnuts, mint leaves, 2 tablespoons oil, salt and pepper. Top with cheese that is thinly sliced
                              and serve.

                              Picture here:

                              1. I have a recipe that uses lots of Romano in a great Risotto dish. If you would like me to post it, let me know. It's from the 80's, so I don't remember the source. I don't want to post it if the mods need a source, because I don't have one.