After I made the cacio e pepe pasta dish with pecorino sardo I will share with you some background information about this cheese.
The name pecorino comes from the Italian word ‘pecora’ which means sheep. Thus, pecorino is a group name for (hard) sheep milk cheeses from Italy.
But pecorino isn’t just pecorino. As in every other family, the members come from different areas and have very different characters. Today, eight pecorino cheeses carry the DOP designation.
But for now, let’s focus on pecorino sardo DOP.
Pecorino sardo from Sardinia
Pecorino sardo is one of the most known pecorino cheeses and comes from Sardinia. As with other origin protected cheeses it is all about a cultural and geographic heritage which is now described in details in the DOP designation.
On Sardinia they have a long shepherd tradition. Three million sheep are walking around on the island, grazing wild plants which influences the quality and taste of the milk. The milk used for pecorino sardo must be full fat sheep milk from a sheep which has grazed on Sardinia. The milk may be pasteurized or thermized.
Pecorino sardo comes with two maturations:
Dolce is the mild type, matured for 20-60 days. The cheese has a green label and is about two kg / 4.4 lb. The cheese curd is cut to the size of nuts.
Maturo on the other hand matures at least two months but most often between four to six months. It wears a blue label, weights around 3 kg / 6.6 lb and the cheese curd is cut to the size of rice grains. (By having smaller cheese curds you have a larger total surface which the whey can leave more easily. Thereby, the texture gets more solid – and more suited for a longer maturation).
Sheep milk contains more lactose compared to cow milk and this gives a slightly more sweet taste. The two types of pecorino sardo are quite different. The dolce is delicate, flexible/soft and has a bit of acidity whereas the maturo on the other hand is more crumbly and has a pleasant sharpness.
On Sardinia, the locals use the mild cheese for cooking and the matured for tapas. They suggest you serve the cheeses with white wine (for instance an oak matured chardonnay) or a red wine with acidity (such as a beaujolais).
Experience pecorino sardo on Sardinia
There are around 20 producers on Sardinia. They are happy to welcome visitors who have the interest and desire to know more about pecorino. On the website of the consortium you can see how to get there (and do take a look at the other attractions now you are there). So far, the website is in Italian – but with a bit of will power and Google Translate – you can make it! 🙂