Skip to main content

Why Parmesan isn’t the cheese you should put on your pasta

It may be time to rethink your finishing cheese for your pasta dishes

Mauro Pezzotta/Shutterstock

We know that we say this about a lot of dishes, but truly — is there anything better than a big, rich, steaming bowl of cheesy pasta? Give us your bucatini, your ravioli, your fettuccini Alfredo. We’ll take it all. Just always, always, top it with a generous grating of cheese. But which cheese? Of course, in this country, we’ve gotten very used to that finishing cheese being salty, nutty, delicious Parmesan. And while that’s certainly a very adequate choice — is it the best choice? We say no. If you ask us, Pecorino Romano is the superior alternative.

What’s the difference between Parmesan cheese and Pecorino Romano?

The two cheeses undoubtedly have their similarities. Both are hard, aged, salty Italian cheeses. The main difference between the two is that Parmesan is a cow’s milk cheese, and Pecorino is a sheep’s. And while both cheeses are aged, the differences in aging time are significant. Parmesan can be aged anywhere between one and three years, while the more youthful Pecorino is generally only aged a few months.

Parmesan cheese Stock

What are the best uses for Parmesan cheese?

Parmesan is deservedly popular for its delightful salty nuttiness and mellow ability to blend with any number of dishes. It’s beautiful in the dishes after which it is named, such as chicken or eggplant parmesan. Parmesan is also a wonderful filler for meatballs and it adds richness to soups and sauces. But overall, Parmesan does far better in a supporting role than that of the main star.

Pecorino Romano

What are the best uses for Pecorino Romano?

Pecorino, however, gets the winning trophy from us. While it’s clearly the less appreciated cheese here, you just can’t argue its obvious superiority. Its gorgeous creaminess adds a texture component that one doesn’t get from Parmesan. It also hits with a signature tang, making it beautiful on its own, or adding depth to simple dishes, such as lighter pastas or gratins. That tangy creaminess is just impossible to compete with.

It’s also worth noting that Pecorino is a delight to enjoy by itself with a glass of wine. You could enjoy Parmesan this way, but it doesn’t work as well as a table cheese as Pecorino does.

Pasta on white plate with cheese on top

Can you use the two interchangeably?

You can. But that doesn’t mean you should. Generally, a recipe will take these differences into account before printing, so if you want to enjoy a dish the way it’s meant to be enjoyed, it’s best to stick with what’s called for, such as Locatelli cheese (Pecorino Romano).

Another thing to consider, apart from the flavor and texture differences we’ve already mentioned, is that Pecorino tends to taste quite a bit saltier than Parmesan. So if you do end up swapping one for the other, keep salt content in mind and adjust your seasonings accordingly, tasting your dish as you go.

Editors' Recommendations

Lindsay Parrill
Lindsay is a graduate of California Culinary Academy, Le Cordon Bleu, San Francisco, from where she holds a degree in…
Mitchell & Ness teamed up with Miller Lite on throwback gear to help you look like your dad
We love this Mitchell & Ness collection for Miller Lite
mitchell and ness miller lite athletic wear collaboration x  amp club collection full suit 3


It seems everyone loves the '80s, and honestly, what's not to love? The simpler times, the yuppies, MTV, and, of course, the fashion. Mitchell & Ness Nostalgia Co., a renowned seller of historically accurate vintage sports apparel, is capitalizing on that throwback trend with another partnership with Miller Lite. Together, they have launched a limited-edition collection that "gives a fresh take on the nostalgia of the original Athletic Club line" that originated in that decade. That's right! Now you can own vintage-inspired crew necks, sweatpants, t-shirts, windbreakers, and hats that will take you all the way back to that classic '80s vibe.
What's in the collection?
Pieces from the collection range from $35 to $100, according to a press release,  made with "premium fabrics, providing high-quality pieces that are built to last." This includes a classic crewneck sweatshirt that is unisex and comes with ribbed side panels for maximum stretch, ribbing at the cuffs for a truly '80s look, and the Miller Lite Athletic Club emblem on the front for $80. Also in the collection are the snapback hat in navy ($35), a navy windbreaker (because you can't have a throwback line without a windbreaker) for $100, sweats, and a 100% polyester unisex satin navy jacket ($95) to cap off the look. It can't get much more '80s than this.

Read more
The best pre-workout meals — everything you need to know
Maximizing athletic performance in the gym requires the right nutrition. These best pre-workout meals will help you succeed
Man eating before a workout

As in most things in fitness, there is never going to be a one-size-fits-all situation. Whether that's diet, exercise, routines, supplements, habits, the list goes on, just because something works for someone else does not mean it will work for you. A pretty commonly asked question on that fact is whether you should eat before a workout.

First thing, you need to establish which group you fall into. Do you feel fully optimized during your session, either with or without food? Some people feel less sluggish on an empty stomach and love to recover with a feast. Others feel lethargic and struggle throughout without proper fuel. If you're the latter, this article is for you. If you are not sure, try both for a couple of weeks and compare your training performance.
Peak performance
With that being said, eating right before a workout may help you perform at your best. The right foods can give you the strength you need to crush a cardio workout or maximize a strength-training session.

Read more
The FDA is changing its stance on salt substitutes — here’s what a dietitian says you should know
How to reduce your salt intake
Salt with a wooden spoon

If there's one "secret" ingredient that makes anything taste more delicious, it's salt, of course. Well, salt or butter. Usually both. No dish is complete without this miraculous little mineral. After all, where would our French fries, our crispy bacon, our nuts, or deli meats be without salt? And those are just the obvious foods we know and love for their salty goodness.

When you take into account the flavor miracle that salt works on all food, bringing out all of an ingredient's other features like sweetness and tartness, there really isn't anything this little chemical can't do. At least when it comes to flavor. Unfortunately, when it comes to health, salt's positive attributes fall a bit short.

Read more