There’s a whole wide world of cheeses. Some are soft and mild, while others are extremely pungent. On the grand scale of Brie to Limburger, Pecorino and Parmesan can seem pretty similar. Both are hard salty cheeses from Italy, and they’re both frequently in the mix with pasta. However, they’re not the same cheese. Read on to learn the difference between Pecorino Romano and Parmesan.
Pecorino Romano vs. Parmesan
If you lay a slice of Pecorino Romano next to a slice of Parmesan, you’ll notice some differences right away. Pecorino is whiter and slightly softer. Parmesan is more golden, and very hard and dry. Now take a taste. Overall, Parmesan has a more nutty flavor. The super-aged Parmesans can even have a hint of caramel flavor. Pecorino will be brighter, with more grassy flavor and sharp saltiness. These differences are a result of different production methods.
Parmesan is made from cow’s milk. It must be aged for at least 12 months. The aging process helps create the nutty, complex flavor that Parmesan is known for. This hard, crumbly cheese gets its name from the region in which it’s produced. True Parmigiano-Reggiano must be made in one of five provinces within Emilia-Romagna.
Parmesan cheese can be thinly sliced and served as an appetizer, or grated over salads or pastas. Grated Parmesan can also be mixed into meatballs. Basically, no matter what you sprinkle it on, it will add a pop of savory saltiness. Pro tip: Buy a wedge of Parmesan to use at home. When it’s all gone, save the rind. You can drop the rinds into beans, soups, or stews as they simmer to add a cheesy flavor to the dish.
Pecorino, and it’s most famous family member, Pecorino Romano, is also a hard, salty cheese. At first glance, Pecorino may seem similar to Parmesan, but it’s far from identical. Pecorino Romano is made from sheep’s cheese, which gives it a more grassy and earthy flavor. Pecorino is also typically younger than Parmesan. The minimum aging requirement for Pecorino is only 5-8 months. This creates a slightly more moist, greener tasting cheese.
Pecorino Romano is the star of cacio e pepe, where the tangy character it gets from sheep’s cheese has an opportunity to shine. Pecorino also works well as a grating cheese, and will be delicious over pasta and salads. If you know you love Pecorino Romano, try looking for a few other varieties, like Pecorino Siciliano, which is often made with an incorporation of black peppercorns.
Now that you know all about the difference between Pecorino and Parmesan, here are some recipes to get you cooking: