Italy is worldwide famous for its variety of food, one of them being cheese. Tuscany and more specifically the town of Siena are very well known for their dairy products.
What is Pecorino cheese? Pecorino is a cheese made from ewe’s milk. The word derives from Italian pecora meaning sheep. The difference between pecorino and cheese made from cow’s milk is in the levels of fats and casein, in fact, they double in the former. The main varieties of Pecorino are Pecorino Romano, Pecorino Sardo from Sardinia, Pecorino Toscano from Tuscany, Pecorino Siciliano from Sicily, Pecorino di Filiano from Basilicata and Pecorino Crotonese from Crotone in Calabria.
AGING: There are more matured cheeses, referred to as stagionato (“seasoned” or “aged” ), which are harder but still crumbly in texture. Then there are semi-stagionato and fresco cheeses, which have a softer texture. In the middle between the fresco and semi-stagionato there’s the variant called “Primosale”.
UNIQUE VARIANTS: Besides the traditional version, many cheese factories often decide to add special ingredients, such as black pepper, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, truffles, nuts, pistachios.
PECORINO IN TUSCANY: The most appreciated pecorino cheese in Tuscany is the one from Pienza, near Siena. It belongs to the category of hard cheeses. The length of aging is at least 90 days, according to the traditional method. Then there’s a special version, from Montefollonico (province of Siena), which is aged using walnut leaves that give it a unique flavor. Another feature of this cheese is that it is made using Sardinian ewes’ milk!
HOW TO STORE PECORINO: The perfect place to store your cheese must have a costant temperature of 10°- 15° and the right balance between humidity and air. If you do not have a cellar, your best option is a fridge, which, however tends to dry out the cheese. Here’s what you should do.
- The perfect temperature: first and foremost, you should pay attention to which kind of cheese you have bought. If it is a fresh cheese, you should put it in the coldest part of the fridge (2-4°). Aged cheeses are best stored within a temperature of 8°-10°, while for every other cheese 6°-8° is fine.
- Do not use plastic wrap: it does not let the cheese “breathe” properly. Instead, use wax paper or wrap it in a damp cloth.
- Take the cheese out of the fridge 2 hours before eating it, this way the aroma will last longer.
- Do not put your cheese in the freezer, as defrosting alters its qualities.
EATING PECORINO: Pecorino is very tasty but full of fats, therefore it is better to eat it alone or with a salad or veggies on the side. Pecorino is widely used in many Italian dishes, such as Amatriciana sauce, Pesto sauce, Pici with “Cacio e pepe” (Pecorino cheese and pepper). Otherwise, it is also eaten with pears and walnuts or drizzled with honey.
WHICH WINE TO PAIR WITH PECORINO? Pecorino and either Classic Chianti or Chianti from Colli Senesi are a perfect match. Chianti wine is produced between Florence and Siena in Tuscany. A more expensive combination is Pecorino+ Brunello di Montalcino, another Sienese wine.
WHERE TO BUY PECORINO: If you visit Tuscany, you can buy Pecorino cheese almost everywhere. The preferred destination is, indeed, Pienza (SI), where you will find the traditional and the gourmet versions. Some shops may also arrange cheese tastings so that their clients can choose their favorite one.
Hotel Borgo Grondaie , located just 1 hour far from Pienza, is your best choice in terms of accommodation. You can either choose to go to Pienza or to go to Siena’s city center where you can buy some Pecorino. We hope to see you soon!
Edited by Borgo Grondaie