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what you need to know

Root Source: Pecorino

what you should know


For too long, pecorino has been Italy's other hard cheese.


Unlike Parmigiano-Reggiano, a cow's milk cheese made in northern Italy, pecorino cheeses are made with sheep's milk (pecora means "sheep") and they usually come from southern Italy and Sardinia, terrain too dry for mooing.


Most are grana: hard, aged, granular cheeses. But beyond that, "pecorino" can apply to any number of cheese styles. (Tasting notes at the blog.)

grate it yourself, sloth Most pecorino imported to the U.S. is sharp, "grating" cheese. In the time it has taken you to read this far, you could have grated 1/4 cup of pecorino. Unless you have to, don't buy grated pecorino. Seriously.


keep it under wraps When hard cheese is left out uncovered, the exposed surfaces oxidize and dry out. So unless you buy your pecorino by the wheel, it's best to store it in the crisper of the refrigerator. Pecorino is durable enough to tightly wrap in plastic wrap. Change the wrap every other day or so to let the cheese air out, but always rewrap it tightly. And for fullest flavor, let the cheese come to room temperature before using it.


try the rind Some pecorinos are brushed with olive oil. Others are rubbed with tomato paste. Others are wrapped in walnut leaves. And so on. Taste the rinds to get closer to the cheese. You may not like it, but at least you'll have tried.



what you need


The pungent graininess of Pecorino Romano and other hard grating pecs can be a lot to handle on its own. Try some shavings with a dollop of a spicy-sweet mostarda, the popular Italian fruit and mustard condiment.


I have one essential cheese tool: a Microplane grater. I use it almost daily. The Microplane's been so touted that it's almost not worth mentioning here. Almost.


If you don't live in New York, you should visit Murray's the next time you're there. In the meantime, get affineur Rob Kaufelt's new book, Murray's Cheese Handbook: A Guide to 300 of the World's Best Cheeses.


Rather buy American-made? Some of the best hard cheeses in the world are being produced in the U.S. My favorite monger, Boston's South End Formaggio, sells several pecorino-esque cheeses from Vermont: Woodcock Farm's Weston Wheel and Peaked Mountain Farm's Vermont Dandy.



what you do


Pecorino is classic for grating over pasta. It elevates already classic fusilli with sausage and broccoli raab.


Cold winter weather doesn't necessarily demand a comforting, warm dish. This fennel, orange and pecorino salad tastes bright and fresh -- just the thing when you've got the winter blues but don't feel like cooking.


Tangy Pecorino Toscano makes a perfect crown for a mild hors d'oeuvre of lentil bruschetta with basil.

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