Today, Pecorino is made in many parts of Italy. Mostly in central and southern Italy. But even northern regions have begun making Pecorino in recent decades as well.
But where did Pecorino originate?
Most scholars believe that the first shepherds to garner attention for their cheesemaking skills were in Tuscany.
As evidence, they point to what is considered the earliest known written mention of Pecorino. It dates back to the 1400s and was found in a description of local foods from the ancient Tuscan village of Montecatini (now a proper city, famous today for its curative waters and Etruscan museum).
Transcribed using modern characters, the 15h-century mention of the cheese reads as caso pecorino.
The word caso is an ancient Italian form of the current Italian cacio. Both come from the Latin caseus.
The word pecorino comes from pecora meaning sheep. It’s an adjective that means related to or coming from sheep.
The translation of caso pecorino literally means sheep’s milk cheese. And it first appeared — no surprise — in Tuscany where Italy’s most unique and distinctive-tasting Pecorino is made.
At a certain point, the name caso pecorino was transformed into pecorino, the word as we know it today.
The other interesting thing about this earliest known mention of Pecorino is that the writer deemed it worth mentioning. Evidently, Pecorino Toscano was already well known in Italy by the time of the Renaissance.
It’s not hard to imagine why! It’s one of Italy’s most famous and coveted foods.
Image via the Pecorino Toscano Consortium Facebook.