Pecorino is the family name of a hard Italian cheese made from ewes milk. The name Pecorino derives from the Italian ‘pecora’ meaning sheep.
Most pecorino is produced on Sardinia but it it’s also produced in Tuscany, Sicily and Lazio in mountainous areas which are too steep & rocky for other animals. The cheese, like parmesan has been granted a Protected Designation of Origin.
There are various types depending on how long they have been aged. The more mature cheeses referred to as stagionato (aged) are harder but still crumbly with a buttery, nutty texture. Other types, semi-stagnionato and fresco are milder and milkier in taste.
In southern Italy, it is traditional to add black peppercorns or chilli flakes. Nowadays there are several new variaties with walnuts and truffle flavours. The Sardinians intentionally allow sheep flies to create a speciality Pecorino Sardo called Casu Marzu.
A good pecorino is often eaten with pears, walnuts or with chestnut (castagno) honey or as an alternative to parmesan with pasta.
Family meal in the Garfagnana mountains
In the the winter months the flocks of sheep are kept in the lowlands, away from extreme weather and wolves.
In the spring the shepherds move the flocks into the hills and mountains and live in the old traditional shepherd’s stone houses
After the fields have been cut in the autumn, the shepherds move the flocks back to the protection of the farms on the low lands
Pecorino is sold in Ponte a Moriano market and a very good cheese shop within the entrance walls at Piazza St Maria