If you think of cheese, probably the first thing that will come to your mind will be France. But Italy has some aces too, in the matter. Tuscany, for example, is quite big in the cheese field: have a taste of Florence‘s deliciousness!
In Tuscany many different caseary products are made, but the king of all formaggi toscani is Pecorino. And, furthermore, there’s not just one kind of pecorino…
Let’s talk about this creamy wonder a bit more. Pecorino means “sheep cheese”: it’s made from sheep milk and its taste depends from many things. First of all, its aging time.
Young pecorino tastes sweet, it’s soft and it almost melts into your mouth. It’s perfect with a light red wine or a rosé and even with some white vernaccia; very good as well with nuts or honey (another very typical tuscan product) – tuscan raw prosciutto, though, might cover its flavour a bit too much. With some grated fresh black truffle, though… it’s quite a love story.
Often you can find it served at the end of a meal, not a real dessert but almost one, a sweet taste to refresh your mouth.
Semi-aged pecorino, that you often recognize for its reddish “skin”, is more intense, more solid. It’s the perfect merenda: two slices of tuscan bread, some pecorino and prosciutto and there you go with your panino. All the tuscan kids ate this during their lessons break. Seriously: all of them.
Its yellow colour and its great texture, its flavour not too strong but already bald makes it also the perfect appetizer. It’s often combined with strong honey (such as chestnut honey) or mustards, and it’s great with beer – sometimes they sell beer cheese as well and it’s pretty often a semi-aged pecorino.
Aged pecorino looks either really yellow or really white, according to its aging process, it’s quite hard to cut and to eat but, it may looks almost dry, but – it’s my absolute favourite, so forgive me if I’m getting romantic – at the taste it’s like an explosion. Do you remember the famous Ratatouille’s scene where the mouse imagines the flavours like a colourful symphony? There we go. Red wine is its match, salame (tuscan salame of course) its companion, and you can really experiment stuff with it: try it with honey, or with balsamic vinegar… grate it on your pasta and add a little pepper and you will have one of the most famous plates in the tuscan kitchen. Or… with figs or pears, of course (there’s a motto that says: don’t let the farmer know how great pears and cheese will match / al contadino non far sapere quanto è buono il cacio con le pere).
So these are the most known ways to taste Pecorino; keeping aside all the great flavoured kind: with pepper, with chili pepper, with truffles… Florence has plenty of these little cheese shops, but if you happen to walk through the Valdorcia (the valleys around Siena, like San Quirico or Pienza) you’ll find one special kind of heaven.
As I said, though, there’s not only Pecorino: Tuscany also produces great Stracchino, for example, a very soft – almost liquid cow cheese. If you’re brave enough you might want to try the other great tuscan merenda, the panino with raw sausage and stracchino!
Yes, that’s another level of bravery. But a “gottino” (a small red wine glass) and this, are the grown up merenda. Actually it’s not so easy to find anymore, and I highly recommend you to either buy it from a superfresh certified butcher shop or to try its more secure version, the one they also give you in restaurant, oven baked crostini with the same mix… or pizza! I cannot decide which one I like best.
Guess with what does stracchino matches greatly as well? With prosciutto, of course! Forget Hawaii pizza and ask for a prosciutto e stracchino. Or – veggie version: an apple and stracchino pizza! It’s pretty grand, I promise.
So, get fit and get ready, because once you’ll be here, while exploring the city with us, you will have the chanche to train nothing but your tummy!