Few cheeses in the world can boast of such ancient roots as those of Pecorino Romano.
For over two thousand years, the flocks of sheep that freely graze in the countryside in the regions of Latium and Sardinia have produced the milk from which this cheese is made. In ancient times, Romans already appreciated Pecorino Romano. In the imperial palaces it was considered just the right touch to banquets, while its preservation capacity made it an ideal ration for the Roman legion in its journeys. Its use was so widespread among the Romans that a daily ration of 27 grams was established for Legionnaires, in addition to the staples of bread and einkorn soup!
This cheese gave renewed strength and energy to the tired soldiers and today we know why: it provides an easily digestible source of energy.
Homer described the manufacture process for this cheese, and in later centuries the process was codified to the extent that Columella, furnished a detailed description of it in his “De re rustica”:
“The milk is generally curdled with rennet from sheep or goats (…) The milking bucket, when full, must be kept at an moderate temperature: it must not be placed on the fire (…), but kept far away from it, and as soon as the whey thickens, it is to be transferred to large or small baskets or forms. It is in fact essential that the whey be able to drain away immediately and thus separated from the solid matter. (…) Then, when the solid part has been removed from the baskets or forms, it is to be kept in a cool, dark environment in order not to ruin. It should be placed on tables which are as clean as possible and sprinkled with salt to draw out the acidity from within.”
Today, Pecorino Romano Cheese is produced in the same exclusive areas as then, and following the same natural procedure. The only difference between now and then is that the stages of curdling, salting and aging take place in modern dairies, equipped with the most modern technology from the hygienic point of view, in order to ensure that the product maintains all its healthy characteristics.
Pecorino Romano is a hard, cooked cheese, produced with whole fresh sheep milk, exclusively from the production area. It may be inoculated with natural cultures of autochthonous milk bacteria and coagulated with creamy lamb rennet. Its rind is thin; ivory or light straw-coloured, occasionally covered with substances for food protection. These may be neutral or black.
The cheese itself is compact or with small eyes. Its colour may vary from white to straw-coloured, depending on the technical conditions of production. The taste of the softer kind is aromatic, slightly sharp and salty; the harder kind, used for grating, is stronger and more intense.
The wheels are cylindrical with flat ends, with a height between 25 and 40 cm. The diameter ranges from 25 to 35 cm. The wheels may weigh from 20 to 35 kg. The surface of the rind is stamped with the specific Denomination of Origin brand (a diamond with rounded corners. Inside, there is a stylised sheep head) with the name, “Pecorino Romano” under it.