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Pecorino, Parmesan cheeses have very distinctive characteristics

Washington Post

Occasionally, a recipe will call for either pecorino or Parmesan cheese. Both cheeses have a granular texture and a salty flavor. But before you indiscriminately substitute one for the other, keep their distinct characteristics in mind:

Pecorino (peh-kuh-REE-noh) is a term loosely applied to all Italian sheep’s milk cheeses, which tend to be off-white and intensely salty. Only an aged pecorino should be used in place of Parmesan cheese; the most common variety is Pecorino Romano. It is typically shaved or grated for a garnish or thinly sliced and drizzled with honey as dessert.

Parmesan is made from cow’s milk and has a golden cast and a rich, buttery flavor. Rather than reach for the grated stuff in a green can, try full-flavored Parmigiano-Reggiano, which is aged a minimum of 24 months. By law, only cheese made in select Italian provinces, including Parma and Reggio Emilia, may be labeled Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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