All About Locatelli
You already know and love Locatelli Pecorino as an “always on hand” must-have ingredient for flavorful meals and may even remember your mom and grandma cooking with it. But the history of Locatelli and Pecorino cheese making stretches back much further than that…all the way to Italy over 150 years ago and really, back to Roman times. Here’s a little insider peek at the interesting story behind Locatelli and their artisanal handcrafted cheeses!
Back to the Beginning
First crafted outside Rome in the region of Lazio and now on the island of Sardinia, the Locatelli family began making sheep’s milk cheeses over 150 years ago. Where exactly is Sardinia? Located west of the Italian mainland and north of Sicily, Sardinia is the 2nd largest island in Italy and a uniquely special place. Its pristine and largely untouched land, mountains, plains, and rocky shores make it a rave worthy spot for travelers and outdoor enthusiasts and the perfect sheep-friendly location for cheesemaking!
Few cheeses in the world have such ancient origins as Pecorino. Production methods were even described by Latin authors such as Varro and Pliny the Elder about 2,000 years ago! It was a staple in the diet of legionaries, or soldiers, of ancient Rome. Italians proudly keep their cheese-making traditions alive and are passionate about their old-world artisan craft.
With its long history, the EU has even recognized “Pecorino Sardo” or Pecorinos from Sardinia with a prestigious PDO (Protected Denomination of Origin) based on its rootedness in tradition. In Italy, a PDO is only awarded to agricultural products and foods that are produced and made in an authentic, time-honored way like Locatelli cheeses.
Where Pecorino Cheesemaking Starts
All Pecorino cheeses are made from sheep’s milk, in fact the word “pecorino” itself is derived from the word “pecore”, meaning sheep in Italian. Since sheep primarily eat only the tender, sweet top blade grass; Locatelli cheeses are rich, buttery, and deliciously nutty.
While Pecorinos are made in other regions of Italy too – Locatelli cheeses are made exclusively from the milk of local Sardinian bred, pasture raised, grass-fed sheep from over 950 family run farms. In fact, many of our sheep farms have been part of the Locatelli family for over 30 years.
As for the process, the sheep’s milk is heated, enzymes from the sheep’s stomach are added, and curds are formed, broken down, pressed, salted, and aged. Each variety of Locatelli cheese is handcrafted by skilled artisans who are experts in the cheese making and aging process. Even the salt used in our cheeses is handmade! A 2-year process goes into harvesting and evaporating Mediterranean salt which is then hand rubbed onto each wheel of cheese by our skilled cheesemakers. This special combination of Sardinian sheep’s milk, handcrafting, salting, and aging is what gives Locatelli Pecorino the crumbly, nutty, zesty, buttery qualities you know and love.
The Locatelli cheesemakers don’t stop at just traditional Pecorino! While our award-winning Pecorino Romano is aged a minimum of 9 months our Pepato Pecorino combines the flavor of our Pecorino Romano with a dash of peppery goodness. Aged a minimum of 8 months, this hard cheese is made from sheep’s milk that’s been steeped with whole peppercorns for a zesty, lightly spicy flavor.
Another unique Locatelli cheese; Saracino is a semi-soft sheep’s milk cheese that’s carefully aged in baskets the old fashioned way “canestrato style” for a minimum of 6 weeks. They feature a uniquely grooved yellow rind, delicate holes, and a wonderful texture, this “caciotta” or artisanal style cheese is excellent served with fruit or melted on pizza or focaccia.
And finally, Locatelli Ricotta Salata has a deliciously bright and creamy taste with a slightly firm texture and snow-white hue. Made with the sheep’s whey that’s pressed out from Pecorino making – this mild, lightly salted cheese gets its name from the word “ricotta “means re-cooked and “salata” means salted.