Pecorino Toscano DOP: characteristics, nutritional values and food pairingsSeptember 26, 2014
Pecorino Toscano is an Italian cheese awarder with the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status. It has been produced since ancient times, so much that Pliny the Elder also mentioned it in his famous Naturalis Historia. It was once called "marzolino" because of its production beginning in March, and it is with said name that the humanist Bartolomeo Platina celebrated it in 1475 as the best Italian cheese, together with the Parmesan one.
The characteristics of the Pecorino Toscano DOP are those of a soft or firm-textured cheese, made exclusively with whole sheep's milk. The fresh variety has a straw yellow crust, a white body and a texture tender to the touch. The flavor is fragrant, distinctive and sweet. On the other hand, the seasoned product has a deep yellow crust, but depending on the treatment sustained, it may also appear black or reddish. The paste is pale yellow; the flavor is fragrant and intense, but never spicy. In both cases, it has a cylindrical shape with flat and slightly convex sides. The Pecorino Toscano DOP is produced in the entire region of Tuscany and in the municipalities of Allerona, Castiglione del Lago, Acquapendente, Onano, San Lorenzo Nuovo, Grotte di Castro, Gradoli, Valentano and Farnese.
The two types of Pecorino Toscano DOP are both rich in important nutritional elements (such as vitamins, especially A, B1, B2 and PP, minerals and proteins), but they vary depending on the intensity and thus the continuation of the production process. In fact, following the microbic and enzymatic modifications that are established during the ripening process, a breakdown of protein compounds occurs in this cheese; moreover, a consequent release of discrete amount of both essential amino acids (valine, lysine, leucine) and not essential ones (glutamic acid), which are very important thanks to their high nutritional values, also happens.
The Pecorino Toscano DOP can be combined in a variety of food dishes. The fresh one is particularly suited to be enjoyed with salads, raw vegetables and mushrooms, and it is perfect with a Tuscan bread’s bruschetta, topped with extra virgin olive oil. The seasoned one goes well with Tuscan cold cuts. Rather intriguing is also the combination of Pecorino Toscano DOP and honey. As for wines, it is better to choose white or delicately flavored red ones for the younger cheese, while red wines with intense and fruity aromas are perfect for the seasoned one.