The Pecorino Toscano (peh-koh-ree-no toh-skah-noh) is a cheese produced with whole milk from sheep. The word for sheep in Italian is pecora – hence the name Pecorino. There are many different types of Pecorino produced, particularly throughout southern and central Italy where the landscape lends itself to dairy sheep production. It is sold either fresh (fresco) or aged (stagionato). The fresco type is soft to the touch, has rind which ranges in colour from pale to straw yellow, while the inside is white with light yellow straw shades.
Pecorino Toscano is a centuries-old table cheese from Tuscany with a D.O.C. (or name-controlled, legally protected origin) status. Pecorino Toscano was awarded DOC status in 1986 and DOP status in 1996, uniting many local cheeses of similar production and appearance under one umbrella for quality control and marketing purposes.
Production of Pecorino Toscano can be from either raw or pasteurized milk, but it is always made with milk from animals who graze or are fed hay or dried grasses. Cheeses are matured in a cellar for between three and six months, depending on the producer.
Fresh Pecorino Toscano is quite mild, and rather creamy, though it does have some nutty oak leaf overtones that keep it from being insipid. It’s tasty in a platter of cheeses, is nice grilled, and also melts some, which makes it a nice ingredient to add to fillings. Because of its softness it doesn’t grate well.
With age Pecorino Toscano becomes firmer and sharper, though it never approaches the sharpness or the saltiness of pecorino Romano. Aged Pecorino Toscano can be grated, but it also works quite nicely in thin crumbly slices over foods, and in this respect is similar to Parmigiano, though it’s a little creamier and still has distinctive walnutty bitter overtones that balance its sweetness and give added complexity to the flavor of the cheese. The finest use for a good slice of aged pecorino, however, is at the end of a meal, perhaps with a dab of partially crystallized honey, or perhaps with a perfectly ripe pear. Indeed, there’s an old saying, Non far sapere al contadino quant’è buona la pera col pecorino — don’t let the farmer discover how tasty pears and cheese are.
It is great for a picnic or before a pasta dinner sliced thin with some savory olives, some crusty bread and perhaps a good salami and prosciutto. We recommend that you try pairing Pecorino Toscano with crisp white wines, or especially with Italian wines from Chianti to Muscato.