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Discover the 3 Pecorini, incredible sheep's milk cheeses that pay homage to Sardinian dairy culture

Pecorino Romano, Pecorino Sardo and Fiore Sardo are testament to Sardinia's long-standing dairy culture, so it's no surprise they boast the Protected Designation of Origin

3 Pecorini – three recipes using the pecorino cheeses

We probably don't have to convince you how brilliant cheese is, no matter whether you're grating it over pasta or eating it alone. But when a cheese is made through a long-standing dairy culture and from an unspoiled landscape, it becomes something extraordinary – not to mention extraordinarily delicious.

That's exactly the case with Pecorino Romano PDO, Pecorino Sardo PDO and Fiore Sardo PDO, three cheeses made with 100% sheep's milk from animals raised freely in specific regions: mainly Sardinia, but in the case of Pecorino Romano, also Lazio and Tuscany's Grosseto province. In these areas, the shepherds still follow ancient traditions that imbue these cheeses with not only flavour, but a sense of place.

It makes sense, then, that the three Pecorini received the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) label in 1996, certifying that they're authentic, quality heritage food products. But while all three cheeses are 'pecorini', which means they're made with sheep's milk, each of them has their own history and unique flavour.

Pecorino Romano PDO is a hard cheese made with 100% fresh full-fat sheep's milk. It's believed that the cheese was born centuries ago in the region around Rome – hence the name. It's still made in a similar way today (with modern upgrades), but production mostly happens in Sardinia, where the milk comes straight from the source. The taste is aromatic and slightly sharp when eaten on its own, but it retains this sharpness when grated, making it ideal for salads and pastas.

What's more, Pecorino Romano PDO is naturally lactose-free*, and can be safely eaten and enjoyed by those affected by lactose intolerance.

Pecorino Sardo PDO, however, has always been made in Sardinia, and is one of the island's oldest cheeses, dating back to when the island was more focused on sheep rearing than agriculture. It comes in two varieties: dolce, more aromatic and matured for 20-60 days, and the spicier maturo, which ages for at least two months.

The three Pecorini cheeses are made with 100% sheep’s milk, making them naturally flavourful and high in protein

Similarly, Fiore Sardo PDO has always been considered the hallmark cheese of Sardininan sheep farmers, and has been one of the island's defining agricultural products for centuries. The production process has remained almost unchanged since it began, and this unique cheese has notes of leather, spices and smoke. The name Fiore Sardo is said to derive from the fact that, in ancient times, the flower of the cardoon was actually employed as natural rennet, or from the use of wooden stamps molded with an engraved flower on the disk that until recently served to distinguish and decorate the cheese.

The three Pecorini cheeses made with 100% whole sheep's milk, which means they differ slightly from those made with cow's milk. Although both types of milk are similar in terms of lactose percentage, sheep's milk contains a higher quality and quantity of fats and proteins. This milk, thanks to the pasture-raised animals, contains nutritious vitamin A, which lends the milk a porcelain white colour. The results is that cheeses made with Sarda sheep's milk are rich in protein.

The flavour and craft involved in these pecorino cheeses have been appreciated for hundreds of years, making them historic cheeses for modern times – not to mention undeniably delicious. 

Buddha bowl with Pecorino Romano PDO cheese, grain and vegetables

Fresh and laden with goodness, this buddha bowl with Pecorino Romano PDO is ideal when you want a hearty but healthy meal

3 pecorini | pecorino romano pdo budda bowl recipe

Serves 4

Preparation time 15 mins

Ingredients

  • 300g Pecorino Romano PDO cheese
  • 100g Valerian salad
  • 400g cherry tomatoes
  • 200g boiled spelt
  • 4 large carrots
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to season

Method

  1. Peel the carrots and slice them lengthwise with a peeler.
  2. Wash the cherry tomatoes and cut them into fours.
  3. Wash and dry the Valerian salad.
  4. Dice the Pecorino Romano PDO cheese.
  5. Share the ingredients equally between four bowls.
  6. Season to taste with a bit of salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil. Enjoy immediately!

Cheesecake with mature Pecorino Sardo PDO cheese

This savoury cheesecake is the perfect party food: flavoursome, fun and easy to make in advance

Pecorino sardo cheesecake recipe

Serves 6-8

Preparation time 40

Cooking time 10 mins

Ingredients

  • 120g biscuits
  • 100g butter
  • 40g grated mature Pecorino Sardo PDO cheese

For the filling:

  • 250g cherry tomatoes
  • 660g drained sheep ricotta cheese
  • 100g mature Pecorino Sardo PDO cheese
  • 100g cooked ham in dices
  • Capers and parsley for garnish
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt, pepper

Method

  1. Chop the biscuits and mix them with melted butter and grated mature Pecorino Sardo PDO cheese.
  2. Cover the bottom of a 24cm cake pan with parchment paper. Put the mixture into the cake pan and press down well, then put the cake tin into a 190°C preheated oven for 8-10 minutes.
  3. Remove the cake tin from the oven and leave it to cool.
  4. Peel 100g of cherry tomatoes, slice them and remove the seeds. Then brown the cherry tomatoes in oil over high heat for 3-4 minutes and drain.
  5. Add grated mature Pecorino Sardo PDO cheese, chopped capers, parsley, cooked ham and cherry tomatoes to the ricotta.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste. Put the mix on the baked cake, level it and put the cake pan into the fridge for 4 hours.
  7. Before serving, remove the cake tin and decorate the cheesecake with the remaining cherry tomatoes, capers and parsley.

Baked pasta with asparagus and Fiore Sardo PDO cheese

Cheesy and indulgent yet packed with greens, this recipe is ideal as we go into the colder winter months

Pecorino recipe asparagus pasta bake

Serves 4

Preparation time 25 mins

Cooking time 20 mins

Ingredients

  • 320g candele spezzate (or rigatoni)
  • 120g Fiore Sardo PDO. cheese
  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • 150g ricotta
  • 250g béchamel
  • 80g dry cured ham
  • 100 g onion
  • Salt, pepper
  • Butter to taste

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C. Remove the ends of the asparagus; peel, wash and boil them in salted water. Be careful not to overcook the asparagus, leaving some firmness. Keep the cooking water as it will be used to cook the pasta. Drain and cut the asparagus.
  2. Chop the ham and brown it in a frying pan with oil and finely chopped onion and a dollop of butter. Add a little bit of water to the pan and cook for 10 minutes. Add asparagus. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Mix the ricotta cheese, béchamel and 100 g of Fiore Sardo PDO cheese together, and then add the asparagus and ham mixture.
  4. Cook the pasta al dente in the asparagus cooking water, drain the pasta dress it with the sauce.
  5. Put it in a baking tin, add knobs of butter and the remaining Fiore Sardo PDO cheese.
  6. Cook for 20-25 minutes at 190°C.
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