The Difference Between Pecorino and Parmesan Cheese

Thousands of different cheese types have been produced over the years, in several parts of the earth. Each type of cheese differs in texture, flavors, source milk, smell, and several other things. All things aside, different forms of this dairy product have remained the people’s favorite since prehistory. Picking two popularly favored types of hard Italian cheeses, the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the Pecorino, let us learn their specialties and compare their characteristics:

PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO aka Parmesan aka THE KING OF CHEESES

Originated in the Italian province of Reggio Emilia, Parmesan is named after the place. It has made appearances in several great literary works and was also the reason for several crimes in Italy. Another interesting factor is the way kids tend to mispronounce the word Parmesan as “Farmer John”. But coming to the acceptance of Parmesan, it is the “practically perfect food”. Hence called the King of Cheeses.

PECORINO

This is a common name for all the Italian sheep cheeses. There are six different varieties of Pecorino, originating from different parts of Italy. Out of these, Pecorino Romano is the most popular variety outside Italy, especially in the United States. But many still consider Pecorino to be the Chef’s cheese. This is mainly because Pecorino has a very sharp flavor and may not be suitable for all sorts of dishes.

Dissecting Parmesan and Pecorino

Origin

The major difference between the two is the origin milk, Parmesan is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk, whereas Pecorino comes from sheep’s milk.

Ageing

The two have distinct ageing periods too. Parmesan is normally aged to a minimum of 12 months and sometimes even up to 3 years. Pecorino on the other hand is aged only for 5 to 8 months. Ageing brings changes to the texture and adds to the flavor of the cheese. Hence, it is a very important feature to consider while choosing your cheese.

Taste

Ageing is one of the major factors that determine the taste difference between the two. We see that the well-aged Parmesan has a nutty and salty flavor whereas the short-aged Pecorino tastes tangy with a strong prick. Parmesan due to its flavor is known as the “all-purpose cheese”. This is because it easily melts into pasta, pizzas, and sandwiches or can be eaten as it is with a tinge of balsamic vinegar. Pecorino on the other hand would stand out in a dish and therefore should be used wisely in cacio e pepe or tarongia.

Pecorino for Parmesan? Or Vice versa?

Now, we come to the point of analyzing if one can be used in place of the other. No!

Pecorino was at some point in time called the “new Parmesan” and many cookbooks encouraged people to use it abundantly in dishes. But both of these cheeses cannot be replaced, one for the other. The major reason is their distinctive tastes. Using Pecorino in a dish may sometimes alter the taste entirely, while Parmesan would smoothly compliment the taste, without overpowering the other flavors.

Nutritional Facts (per 100g)

Cheese has a wide variety of nutritional benefits. It changes with the origin of the milk used, the processes involved in the production, and the ageing period. It is known to be rich in vitamins and other minerals.

Parmesan

  • Fat:   25.83g
  • Carbohydrates:   3.22g
  • Protein:   35.75g

Pecorino

  • Fat:   32g
  • Carbohydrates:   3.6g
  • Protein:   29g

PICK ONE!

Let’s be real. Parmesan and Pecorino have very different identities. They are distinctive in their own different ways. One can’t be picked over the other. This is simply because an ‘Agnello Cacio e Ova’ or ‘lamb in cheese’ may taste much better with Pecorino which may not be the best for a simple sandwich. Hence, it is the entirety of a dish, choice of the chef or the taste of the diner that matters while picking the best one from Parmesan and Pecorino.

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