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Parm-Reg vs. Romano - when to use

I'm a fan of cheese. I know what I like and what I don't like. I don't know a lot about cheese as some others do, however.

I usually buy Parmigiano-Reggiano for my usual use for sprinkling on top of pastas, making Alfredo sauces, etc. However, I recently picked up Pecorino Romano, and found I don't like it near as much. I'm not sure why - perhaps because the Romano has a very pungent smell and taste, which I'm usually not averse to.

For what dishes should both be used? Or doesn't it much matter?

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  1. Your nose is spot on - Romano is indeed a stronger-flavored, more pungent cheese that Parmigiano. If you're an Italian purist, certain recipes must use only one or the other. Personally I like strong flavors so I tend to use Romano in most dishes that call for grated cheese, but do use Parm in delicate dishes where Romano would just overpower the flavor (Marcella Hazan's bolognese sauce, for example).

    1. Pecorino was the basic smell of just about any grocery store I went into on my first time in Italy, and thirty years later it still gets my attention. And since neither Mrs. O nor I have any objection to a stronger-smelling cheese I tend to use both Romano and other pecorinos more frequently than the cow's milk grating cheeses. We like the Spanish ones, too, though they're usually softer than the Italians; there's one I get at Trader Joe's, called Iberico, that is made with milk from all three of the usual sources: cow, sheep, and goat. It's not too pungent and quite delicious, in our estimation.

      I don't believe in making or following arbitrary rules about what cheese to use when. Follow your own taste preferences, and if you think sheep's cheese is baaaad (sorry, couldn't resist) then don't use it.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Will Owen

        LOL on the pun. :-) No, I love cabrales and manchego, so I don't have a dislike of sheep's cheese. (I'll be honest, I didn't know Pecorino wasn't made from cow's milk).

        Thanks for the info re: Iberico at TJs. Will try that.

      2. i used it with parm in my carbonara

        4 Replies
        1. re: eLizard

          Pecorino Romano in pasta carbonara may be its highest and best use!
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/279040

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Also bucatini all'amatriciana (often made with a mix of parm. and pecorino romano) and cacio e pepe. Many Roman dishes use romano more than parmigiana.

            If you can find fresh pecorino romano, it's completely different and wonderful to eat as is, typically with fresh fava beans.

            1. re: lisaonthecape

              Ahhh, thanks for the cacio e pepe idea!

              1. re: lisaonthecape

                Yes to both! This week I was served spaghetti con peperone that was topped with Pecorino Romano. The sharper, stronger, non-sweet flavors of the pecorino were a great foil for the sweet roasted red peppers sauce. The sweet nuttiness of parmigiano would have been out of place.

          2. My rule has been, when using tomato sauce l use Pec Romano, also on bread with butter.
            When creamy sauce or eaten in chunks with a great amarone, l use Parm Reggiano.
            Perhaps it might be mentioned there are three primary makers of Pecorinio Romano, first the cooperative and largest producer is the one that just has the words pecorino romano on the outside of the rind. lt is the one l use the most. There is also Locatelli brand and l find it saltier than the cooperative's one and thus try not to use it. The king of the jungle is Sine Fulvi, far less salty and wonderful drier texture. It is the most expensive of the three but certainly not expensive.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

              OK, perhaps that's the issue - I don't have the original packaging, but I think this might be the Locatelli brand. Thanks for the info!

            2. I've always preferred Pecorino Romano over Parm Reg because of the stronger flavor, and substitute it in everything. I recently tried a 3 year aged Parm Reg Stravecchio that was full of crunchy crystals. Loved the bolder flavor of this Parm, but still prefer Pec Romano.

              1. Simple economics suggest grating Pecorino to add pungency to already flavorful dishes, saving the more expensive Parmigiano-Reggiano for savoring on its own. Basic difference, of course, is the former is made from sheep's milk, the latter from cow's milk.

                Grana Padano is a slightly less expensive alternative to Parmigiano-Reggiano.

                "Romano" may confuse the issue since it's only one of several regionally specific kinds of Pecorino and since most Pecorino Romano is actually from the island of Sardinia, not Rome's province of Lazio.

                1. While I enjoy both cheeses, as of late I find I'm enjoying Costco's own "Kirkland" brand of imported-from-Italy Pecorino Romano cheese better than the Parmigiano-Reggianos I normally purchase. The flavor is very nice, & the cheese is far less salty than the Parmigiano.

                  1. Do you shop at a place that allows you to sample? If so, it would be worth tasting a different brand of pecorino romano to ensure you didn't just get a dud package.

                    I use Parmigiano-Reggiano when I want to add umami to a dish but don't want the cheese to overwhelm the other flavors. For an omelette or anything custardy, I tend to use Parmigiano-Reggiano. Pecorino romano tends to stand up better than reggiano to cured pork products. For example, I'll use parmigiano reggiano & walnuts to stuff dates, but pecorino when baking the dates wrapped in pancetta. That all said, go with your palate!

                    1. I decided some time ago, after trying several, that I just don't like Pecorino Romano. I find eating them as off-putting as the smell. So I use Parmigiano-Reggiano any time I want cheese to grate. I like it as an eating cheese, too, particularly with walnuts and some fruits (pears).

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Jay F

                        I'm going to try a few others and go to a good cheese shop (Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge is the probable one) to try a sample of the better ones they'll have and see if it's just this brand I got. But I might be just like you, Jay. I do also enjoy Parm-Reg with slices of fruit and nuts as well.