Pecorino Romano is a traditional Italian Grana cheese made with sheep milk. Grana cheeses are the ones with hard and granular textures, usually used shaved or grated. It is somewhat reminiscent of Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano in this regard and is sometimes used to substitute them in specific recipes (and vice versa).
However, that’s not to say that they’re entirely interchangeable. Pecorino Romano’s texture is a bit softer than Parmigiano Reggiano’s and more buttery, as sheep’s milk has higher butterfat content than cow’s milk. Typically aged for a shorter time, between 5 and 10 months, it develops a smooth and thin natural rind.
It also significantly differs from most Grana cheeses flavor-wise. Pecorino Romano is much saltier, with a moderately nutty aroma and barely a hint of sweetness. The primary flavor undertones are earthiness and grassiness, characteristic of cheese made with sheep milk, which becomes more and more pronounced the further the cheese is matured.
Pecorino Romano is one of the most ancient cheeses in the world, with historical accounts mentioning it as far as 2,000 years ago. It has been granted the Protected Designation of Origin (DOP) status by the EU, meaning it can only be manufactured in specifically designated areas adhering to strict production standards.