A Tuscan treasure that has been celebrated for centuries, this Italian cheese can be enjoyed in a myriad of ways. Read on to get our top tasty picks.
This delicious cheese boasts a history of over 2,500 years – and it’s been celebrated over the centuries. The Italian Renaissance humanist Bartolomeo Platina declared Pecorino Toscano the best cheese in Italy. And in the 18th century, women who could craft Pecorino were cherished – their skill was considered part of their dowry and boosted their chances of finding a husband!
Today, Pecorino Toscano DOP is still made according to tradition. Ranging from soft to semi-hard and from mild to pleasantly pungent, depending on the length of aging, it’s a universally loved cheese. Originating primarily from Tuscany and a few select areas in Umbria and Lazio, it’s produced with whole milk from sheep fed a diet of grass and hay. Soft paste Pecorino Toscano is aged for 20 days, while the semi-hard variety is aged for a minimum of four months. Each individual form of Pecorino Toscano must be inspected before it receives a DOP stamp.
Here are our favourite ways to enjoy this versatile cheese.
- With bread and pasta
The most natural of pairings – bread and cheese, Italy’s famed Easter Cheese Bread typically features both diced and grated Pecorino Toscano, while a creamy mixture of wild mushrooms, butter, finely sliced onion and Marsala DOC, sprinkled with grated Pecorino Toscano is an updated take on bruschetta. This cheese also makes a simple and flavourful addition to pasta dishes, either grated into creamy sauces or combined with breadcrumbs and a few knobs of butter to form a delicious crust on a gratin.
- With honey and fruit preserves
Far from a new concept, Pecorino cheese and jam was served as a pairing for the first recorded time in history during a lavish banquet in Siena in 1719. And what an inspired invention it was – fresh Pecorino Toscano yields easily to the knife, making it a dream to serve as an appetizer or finger food. Aged Pecorino pairs beautifully with Italian Acacia honey as well as fruit preserves like marmalade and jam. Coupled with fresh pears, walnuts and Italian chestnut honey, Pecorino Toscano makes a tasty and polished addition to any gathering.
- With vegetables
The softly sweet finish of this cheese balances the bitter spice of arugula and complements the smooth richness of broad beans. And for a crispy finish to baked asparagus, top with fresh Pecorino Toscano, Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil and pepper, and bake at about 160°C, until the cheese browns to a delectable crust.
- With Italian cured meats
For an unexpected twist on Bresaola, combine ricotta, chili pepper, tomato and both fresh and aged Pecorino Toscano, fold the bresaola in the shape of a cone and spoon the mixture inside. Serve cold with a drizzling of oil and lemon juice. When aged, it can be cubed and served on a skewer with salami and black olives.
Can’t wait to try out Pecorino Toscano for yourself? It’s available at grocery stores and fine cheese retailers across Canada. And be sure to take a snap of your creation and share with #MadeInItaly.