Parmesan vs. Romano Cheese
At a Glance
Parmesan and Romano are two of the world’s most popular hard grating cheeses. Romano tends to have a sharper, more salty flavor, while Parmesan is milder and melts more smoothly.
When it comes to hard grating cheeses, Parmesan and Romano are undoubtedly two of the world’s favorites. You can find both cheeses melted into pasta or over pizza or served at room temperature over salad or bread. Although the two are often considered interchangeable, it can benefit your next foray into Italian food to gain a bit of knowledge regarding the differences between Parmesan vs. Romano cheese and what dishes they pair best with. Although Romano cheese is generally noted as the sharper, stronger tasting of the two, that’s just where the differences begin.
Origins and Identification
Europe is full of regionally protected foods, and Italian cheeses are no exception. While the terms “Parmesan” and “Romano” are not trademarked and can be used without a certification of their protected designation of origin, you can definitely get a better idea of what Parmesan vs. Romano cheese should taste like if you purchase them from the regions that originally created them. Parmesan is from the Parma region of Italy and its name too reflects the origin. Similarly, Romano cheese has its own origin from outskirts of the city of Rome. Both cheeses are hard and salty. Romano cheese owes its sharp flavor to the fact that the milk used in its production often comes from sheep. Romano from sheep milk is labeled “Pecorino Romano.”
Features and Tastes
Pictured at top: Parmigiano Reggiano Stravecchio, Aged Three Years
Both cheeses are well-known and are mostly used in different foods like pizza, soups, pastas and others. They are hard cheeses and differ slightly in taste. If you are looking for some strong flavor, the strong, salty sharpness of Romano should appeal to you. While Parmesan is also salty, it melts smoothly and coats the tongue, dulling the sharp flavor. The fact that Parmesan melts smoothly can make it taste like a higher fat cheese in spite of the fact that it tends to contain less fat than Romano.
There is a good variety in Romano cheese and that really makes a positive difference. These differences usually come with the ingredients of the cheese. In generally, Romano cheese comes in three types: Pecorino Romano has sheep’s milk, Caprino Romano has goat’s milk and Vacchino Romano has cow’s milk. Romano cheese isn’t frequently made from sheep’s or goat’s milk in the United States, however. The real northern Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano is the most consistent in flavor in all its varieties. When purchasing Parmesan cheese, check for the classifications “Vecchio” and “Stravecchio.” These terms indicate extra aging periods of 18-24 and 24-36 months respectively. An extra aged Parmesan is truly a rare treasure and worth savoring.
Both cheeses are used almost on similar food stuffs as at many places you will find the use of these cheeses as substitute to each other. The strong Romano are preferred for the pizzas, soups and pastas while mild Parmesan used in salads, veggies, pizzas and others. In the United States, Romano is frequently blended with Parmesan to get the best of both worlds, with less of the sheep’s milk taste that some people dislike.