When I set off towards Italy, I pictured myself sitting in the rolling landscape, overlooking a pure blue waterfront, with a chunk of cheese in hand! Italy and cheese, what could be better? On the contrary, when I arrived in Italy, I did so much more. As a cheese lover, I learned some amazing facts about Pecorino Romano cheese in addition to learning about the incredible history of the cheese itself. Thank the agriculture, traditions and the European air for many of the foods made in Italy.
The landscape of Sardinia Italy is breathtaking!
The scene in Sardinia, Italy is beyond anything that a photo could ever capture. The landscape boasted full-bodied trees, open fields with lush grass, sheep grazing to their leisure, and horses galloping. You would think that I would be heading straight to Rome to see how Pecorino Romano is made. I quickly found out that 96 percent of this particular cheese is made in Sardinia. In fact, the first Italian cheeses were made from sheep’s milk dating back 2000 years ago. They fed the soldiers of the ancient Roman Empire!
What is a cheese Cooperation?
Almost as soon as I arrived in Sardinia, we set off to see a Pecorino Romano facility called Caseificicio CAO. This facility is a Cooperation whereas 700 farmers consolidate their milk to make some of the best tasting Pecorino Romano in the world. There is literally cheese everywhere. This is the largest Cooperation in Sardinia. The Sardinian shepherds created this Cooperative to maintain the tradition and preserve the savory Pecorino flavors and soul of the cheese. Each shepherd’s milk is tested for purity before it is combined with the other members’ milk. The process used is thermalization to gently heat the milk, ensuring quality while the aromatic flavors stay intact.
Pecorino Romano is a PDO cheese. This means it has obtained the “protected designation of origin” certification from the European Union which allows consumers to be sure they are eating authentic Pecorino Romano, and not Romano for example which is an entirely different cheese not even made necessarily with sheep’s milk, and certainly not made in Italy. For more info on that you can see here!
Why does Pecorino Romano taste so good?
You may be wondering why the cheese tastes so good. Pecorino Romano, the main cheese produced in Sardinia, follows the natural cycle of the sheep’s grazing. Free grazing sheep means the cheese has the flavors of the seasons. The grazing sheep ingest the aromatic herbs relevant to each season. Those herbs transfer into their milk’s flavor, which the cheesemaking process preserves.
How many ways can you cook with Pecorino Romano?
As part of my journey with Pecorino Romano, I spent the afternoon with Chef Leonardo Marongiu at Hub restaurant in Macomer. He prepared dishes exclusively using Pecorino Romano. He even created a cream sauce using only cheese and water (without eggs). This shows how versatile and delicious the cheese really is! He mentioned that he uses a mere 65 pounds of Pecorino cheese every two weeks. You can find some of the recipes here!
All things Pecorino Romano
I never expected my trip to Sardinia. As a cheese lover who runs to the grocery store to restock my supply biweekly, I loved living out my cheese fantasy in Italy. Italy surprised, delighted, and inspired me in every way. I admired the hosts I met, chefs, and guides. They all come together to create a cheese as delicious as Pecorino Romano. Next time I pick up a cheese in store, I will be able to visualize all the labour and passion that goes into cheesemaking. Learning about the process behind the product makes the experience of eating the cheese all the more delicious.
Images taken by @gluephotography
This trip was hosted, all opinions are my own.