You may have heard, I recently went to Italy. To say this was a spiritual experience (bit like my visit to The ABBA Museum would be very accurate.
Florence is well known for many things. some bloke called David, the setting of a million films and novels and of course, its’ food.
I was there for the cheese – specifically Pecorino.
Pecorino is the name of a family of hard Italian cheeses made from ewe’s milk. The word derives from Italian pecora meaning ‘sheep’, which in turn is from the Latin pecus meaning livestock.
Like Parmesan we have all probably had some bad Pecorino – shredded, refrigerated and generally mistreated. Trying it “fresh” in Italy was a revelation.
Pecorino comes in a variety of styles depending on how long they have been aged. The more matured cheeses, referred to as stagionato (“seasoned” or “aged” ), are harder but still crumbly in texture and have decidedly buttery and nutty flavors.
The other two types semi-stagionato and fresco have a softer texture and milder cream and milk tastes.
A good Pecorino Stagionato is often the finish of a meal in Italy, served with pears and walnuts or drizzled with strong honey. I tried mine was a jam, which was sweet and played against the salty savory elements of the cheese. Honey is also a favorite, sometimes tinged with truffles from the local region.
Pecorino is also often used to finish pasta dishes as it is cheaper than Parmesan. This inspired me on my return home to try it with some unbleached pasta I bought in Florence.
If I squinted, drank several glasses of wine and completely lost my mind, I could have been back in Florence.