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The Best Pecorino Romano Cheese
Is Pecorino Romano from Italy worth seeking out, or can domestic options do the job?
Boar's Head Pecorino Romano
Pecorino Romano by Zerto
What You Need To Know
Pecorino Romano is like the seasoned character actor who improves dozens of movies but never quite gets recognition. It’s one of the oldest cheeses in the world, named for its origins in ancient Rome, and its firm, slightly oily, crystalline texture and salty, funky flavor deserve fresh consideration out of the shadow of its more famous cousin, Parmigiano‑Reggiano. In the test kitch...
Everything We Tested
“Delicious! Rich, complex, deeply savory, with a long finish” and a “crystalline” crunch, this imported sheep's-milk Pecorino Romano sold under the Boar's Head banner was “dense, nicely dry, salty in a fruity, fatty kind of way” and was our tasters' overall favorite. It also had by far the highest sodium level in our lineup, adding to its savory appeal. In pasta, it was “smooth,” “pungent, salty, and sharp,” with “the perfect taste and creamy texture I've been looking for! Silky, tangy, cheesy, creamy, assertive.”
“Full-flavored, complex, crystalline, crumbly, pungent, salty; just right,” this imported sheep's-milk Pecorino Romano had a “lovely sheepy, briny flavor” that was “Robust! Salty! Addictive!” and “deeply savory, almost meaty, with a fatty richness” and a “slightly crumbly texture.” Tasters found it “funky, but in a good way.” In spaghetti, it was “silky,” “velvety,” “creamy and buttery” —the “strong, lovely cheese flavor makes this dish sing.”
With “lots of crystals,” this “salty, rich, funky” cheese was “almost crunchy” and “pleasingly pungent” when nibbled plain, coming across as “creamy and milky and salty without being overbearing.” Its “coarse texture” was described as “perfect for grating.” “It's like the other great Pecorinos but a touch more subdued instead of knock-you-out salty/funky.” In spaghetti, the cheese's flavor was “a little mild” compared with those of other samples, but it helped achieve a “good balance of salt and cheese and pepper, all working in harmony.”
With “a little kick!” and “some funk on the finish,” this imported Pecorino Romano won fans. “Oh, this is just lovely,” wrote one taster. “Firm and crumbly yet also creamy. It's grassy and fruity, with sweet winey notes and some crystalline crunch.” On spaghetti, the fruity notes came through in a “velvety,” “nutty” sauce.
Recommended with reservations
With “pleasant,” “mild,” “sweet,” “nutty” flavor, this domestic cow's-milk Romano was “very soft” and “not as pungent as it should be,” “very buttery and Parmesan-like,” like “unhole-y Swiss.” “This isn't a bad cheese,” wrote a taster. “It's mild, creamy, and toothsome, with good milkiness.” But others noted that it “could stand to be saltier.” In pasta, it had “nice saucy-ness” and was “smooth, creamy,” making for “kid-friendly noodles, for sure,” but was “really overwhelmed by the pepper.”
This cheese was a bit too “mild overall,” reminiscent of “gouda,” “Gruyère,” or “cheddar.” It was “buttery, creamy, but missing the funk and crumbliness” tasters sought. “I miss the salty bite!” wrote one. “Lacks the intensity I expect, but I don't dislike the sweet, nutty, caramel-y flavor.” A few complained about the texture, noting that it “breaks into pellets.” In pasta, it was “perfectly creamy” and “light,” but its flavor was “muted.”
“Mildly salty,” “fruity,” “soft and slightly creamy,” with a “pebbly” texture when broken and a slightly “sour” flavor with “some tanginess to the finish,” this domestic cow's-milk Romano “eats like cheddar,” “provolone,” or “Swiss cheese.” “This is missing that gritty saltiness I crave,” one taster noted. Others summed it up: “Inoffensive but not beguiling.” In spaghetti, it had “no bite or much saltiness” and “could be more flavorful.”
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The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing.
Lisa is an executive editor for ATK Reviews, cohost of Gear Heads on YouTube, and gadget expert on TV's America's Test Kitchen.