Sardinian Pecorino, a wind-flavoured cheese

Have you ever tried a cheese that tastes of warm summer wind? A wind laden with the perfumes of the land, of wild herbs, of cistus, of myrtle, of mastic and strawberry tree. Just like in the Sardinian woods, where sheep rearing for the production of milk and cheese is a long-standing tradition that goes back to the ancient Romans and Carthaginians. However, the first traces of cheese obtained from milk warmed with red-hot stones only date back to the late 18th century. The processing and transformation techniques have changed over the centuries, but the wind continues to blow for the producers of the most famous cheese of the island, the Sardinian Pecorino. Today, it can boast Dop (protected designation of origin) status which is proudly displayed on the hard and protective rind, just like a mother who protects her son from bad weather and sudden changes in temperature.

Pecorino sardo Dop is a table cheese exported worldwide in two types, which differ in size and flavour. It is produced exclusively with full fat sheep milk which comes only from the zone of origin. For enthusiasts of cheese production techniques the milk is coagulated at a temperature of between 35 and 39 degrees with a quantity of calf rennet to complete the cycle in 40 minutes. The paste is then broken into curd granules of the size of a hazelnut.

The next stage is the semi-cooking phase at 43 degrees in round-shaped moulds. The final stage, maturing and ageing in dedicated areas, takes place at a controlled temperature and humidity. For the sweet kind, with a thin white or straw yellow crust and a sweet aromatic flavour, it is necessary to wait from 20 to 60 days; to taste the mature Sardinian Pecorino, which features a dark crust and a decidedly strong and delightful tangy flavour, at least six months of seasoning is required.

Excellent as a Mediterranean aperitif, it is recommended with two Sardinian wines which are particularly suited to accompanying this cheese on a not-to-be-missed tasting experience in the restaurants certified Ospitalità Italiana in Sardinia: ask for a glass, cold but not too cold, of Madrolisai and Cannonau. It is also excellent paired with Sardinian reds, starting from the full-bodied Carignano del Sulcis.

If, on the other hand, you are in search of a characteristic dish based on Sardinian Pecorino, then choose culingionis, morsels of pasta with a decisive and exhilarating flavour, just like the wind that blows in Sardinia.

There is also a dessert based on Sardinian cheese, but here you will find the recipe with the other goat milk cheese with Dop status, fiore sardo (flower of Sardinia), Seadas, fritters to garnish with sugar or bitter strawberry tree honey and fried only in Olio extravergine di oliva Sardegna Dop (Extra virgin olive oil Sardinia Dop).

Not-to-be-missed, before the dessert, is a taste of Sardinian lamb, a piece of true ovine heritage which enjoys Igp (protected geographical indication) status. Tender meat with a strong wild flavour, easy to digest thanks to the rearing methods used which see the animals graze on natural pastures following the thousand-year-old Sardinian tradition. Our recipe, once again with plenty of Sardinian Pecorino cheese, is lamb in pane carasau (a traditional flatbread from Sardinia) crust.