A cheese with an aromatic, savoury and slightly spicy flavour, easy to store, versatile in cooking and for this reason much loved and widely used in Italian kitchens: we are talking about Pecorino Romano DOP.
The “Denominazione di Origine Protetta” (Protected Designation of Origin) was granted in 2002, but the Pecorino Romano is deeply rooted in the past millennia.
Pecorino Romano from its origins to today
To find the first forms of Pecorino Romano, one has to dive deep into the past. It seems that the Romans enjoyed it and did not leave the cheese out during banquets. And more. Aware of its nutritional properties and easy digestibility, the Romans included a specific ration of pecorino (27 grams) in the diet of their legionaries when they were travelling, to ensure adequate energy!
Much has changed since then, but much has not changed. The sheep are still reared in the wild and fed strictly on wild pastures. The processing, especially the fundamental steps, is for the most part still in human hands.
The processing of Pecorino Romano DOP
The processing of Pecorino Romano DOP is regulated by the specific Consortium, which first establishes that the milk may only originate from Lazio, Sardinia and a restricted area of the province of Grosseto in Tuscany.
Once the milk is collected, it is processed raw and a specific ferment called “scotta graft”, prepared daily by the cheesemaker, is added. This is a very important, and therefore very delicate, step handed down for centuries.
Coagulation takes place with the addition of lamb rennet. Once the cheeses have cooled, they are branded and then arranged for salting.
This is another crucial phase in the processing of Pecorino Romano cheese, and it can take place in two ways: in brine over a fairly short period of time, or dry.
The last phase, that of seasoning, ranges from a minimum of 5 to a maximum of 8 months for Pecorino for grating.
Pecorino Romano DOP on the table
How to serve Pecorino Romano DOP? For those who want to enjoy it on its own, it can be served with bread, but for a more complete meal it is best served with salads, legumes, and cooked vegetables. And here it becomes a precious ingredient alongside a pinzimonio, a mouth-watering touch between baked vegetables and indispensable in first courses like Spaghetti cacio e pepe.
The perfect pairing with wine?
The younger Pecorino Romano DOP goes well with medium-bodied, smooth, and fairly warm white wines. Instead, mature Pecorino is best paired with well-structured, smooth, and warm reds. When Pecorino cheese is the protagonist of a good aperitif, do not overlook the pairing with a Trappist beer.
Curiosities about Pecorino Romano DOP
Why is a substantial part of Pecorino DOP produced in Sardinia? The origin of this “anomaly” dates to the last two decades of the 19th century, when the eternal city was home to many shops where Pecorino cheese was matured. So many that the mayor forbade the “pizzicaroli” from salting Pecorino Romano cheese in their storerooms. This gave rise to a bureaucratic dispute, which was lost by the shopkeepers, who were then forced to move production to Sardinia, also because the consumption of this typical cheese had grown so much (within and beyond the national borders) that it was necessary to use milk produced even outside the borders of Lazio. So, Sardinia, a land with an ancient agro-pastoral tradition, proved to be the winning choice.
And therefore, even today, according to the Consortium’s regulations, Sardinia is a territory included in the production of Pecorino Romano PDO.