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Substituting Pecorino Romano for Parmesan

By Cook's Illustrated Published November 2016

Will Pecorino Romano work as a Parmesan substitute?

Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano-Reggiano are very similar: They’re both aged, salty hard cheeses, and they’re both high in glutamates, compounds that boost umami flavors. Parmesan (we’re referring to both Parmigiano-Reggiano and domestic Parmesan here), made from cow’s milk, has a more neutral flavor than sheep’s milk–based Pecorino, which is more pungent and assertive. But if you already have Pecorino Romano on hand, will it work as a Parmesan substitute?

In polenta, a direct swap proved too salty. Reducing the amount by one-third made the salt level acceptable, but the cheese flavor was less distinctive. In our Turkey Meatballs, where the Parmesan is used as a background savory flavor booster, the Pecorino didn’t come across as too salty, but its flavor was more noticeable. Using one-third less cheese was a good workaround.

THE BOTTOM LINE: You can substitute Pecorino Romano for Parmesan, but use one-third less than the recipe calls for to keep the salt level and flavor in line.

3 OUNCES OF PARMESAN = 2 OUNCES OF PECORINO ROMANO