A delicious Italian cheese with a distinct nutty, slightly salty flavor, Pecorino cheese is delicious – either on its own or served with fruit nuts or a glass of red. However, when a recipe calls for Pecorino, and you don't have any, what's a cheese lover to do?
This article looks at the best substitutes for Pecorino cheese to cover you for every situation.
What is Pecorino Cheese?
It's a special variety of Italian sheep's milk cheese. In fact, the Italian word pecorino means "of sheep" in English. Pecorino is a protected type of cheese that has to be made in a certain way within a certain region to gain DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta) status.
Pecorino cheese can be young or mature – usually aged between 8 to 12 months. The younger cheeses, known as semi-mature and fresh (semi-stagionato and fresco), are soft and milder. However, mature Pecorino (stagionato) is hard and crumbly, with a salty, nutty taste.
You'll also notice a slightly spicy, smoky undertone with Pecorino, particularly as it ages. This gives it an interesting flavor profile and makes pairing it with other flavors a delight.
Different Types of Pecorino Cheese
There are many varieties of pecorino cheese, a DOP cheese (Denominazione di Origine Protetta) or Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status under EU law. Here are four of the most popular:
The most well-known type of Pecorino cheese, Pecorino Romano, is mainly produced on the island of Sardinia, despite the name. However, as the name suggests, this cheese goes all the way back to the Romans. The Rome district of Lazio is still a major production zone.
Although Pecorino Sardo is also produced on the island of Sardinia, it has a distinctly different flavor from Pecorino Romano. It's younger and milder, with a softer texture. However, as Pecorino Sardo is aged with a natural rind, it also picks up some earthy flavors – that farmyard, almost mushroom flavor that adds a whole new dimension.
This is the version of pecorino produced and sold in the Tuscany region of Italy. It's generally milder, softer, and less mature than the popular Romano version, with a slightly grassy flavor.
Made in Sicily, Pecorino Siciliano is slightly less salty than Pecorino Romano and is often flavored with peppercorns.
What's the difference between Pecorino and Pecorino Romano cheese?
Pecorino Romano cheese is a type of Pecorino. Pecorino (meaning "of sheep" or "ovine" in Italian) is the overall term for the specific kind of cheese that is made in a certain way.
The Romano version is the most popular version of Pecorino cheese. It has a distinct flavor that's stronger and saltier than most.
Is Ricotta a good substitute for Pecorino cheese?
Although they are made from sheep's milk, these two cheeses differ. So, I wouldn't recommend using them interchangeably. If you're going to use ricotta as a substitute, go for the matured version, Ricotta Salata.
What does Pecorino cheese go well with?
Pecorino is perfect for eating independently but is even better when paired with a full-bodied, heavy-tannin wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Chianti. It's also great with figs, apricots, raspberries, dried fruits and nuts, honey, and cold cuts.
Is Pecorino cheese vegan?
No, it contains sheep's milk. However, there is a good alternative available.
Can you get a vegan Pecorino cheese substitute?
Mix nutritional yeast with almond meal or raw cashews pulsed into a paste for an excellent dairy-free or vegan cheese option.
Mixing nutritional yeast with an almond meal or raw cashews pulsed into a paste, then adding flavorings such as garlic, onion powder, herbs, and ground black pepper, you can make an excellent vegan substitute for Pecorino.
Remember, if you need a quick dairy-free topping for pasta or baked dishes, nutritional yeast is the perfect alternative to cheese.