With continued consumer interest in robust, assertive and unique artisan cheese varieties, it’s time to get bullish on sheep’s milk cheeses. Don’t know where to start? Fear not, we’ve got ewe covered with plenty of products from the Sardinian producer Fratelli Pinna.
More Sheep than People
The Italian island of Sardinia boasts breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea, and millions of lucky sheep get to call the lush pastures in the captivating countryside home. It’s true – this enchanting island with its pristine landscape and crystal clear waters has more sheep than people! Naturally, the natives have cultivated sheep’s milk cheesemaking traditions for generations, and Sardinia boasts the largest production facility in the world – Fratelli Pinna SPA. If you’re looking for sheep expertise, Sardinia is the place to find it.
Picture it: Sardinia, 1919.
Two brothers – the “Fratelli,” Giommaria and Francesco Pinna – from Thiesi, a quaint town in the northern province of Sassari, Sardinia, grew up with a shared love of their island’s traditional sheep’s milk cheeses. In hopes of sharing authentic Sardinian cheeses with the world, the brothers founded Fratelli Pinna in 1919, and throughout the generations, the Pinna family has stayed true to the founding vision of bringing the one-of-a-kind flavors of their beloved island into homes and restaurants across the globe. Today, Sardinia is a leading source for classic and distinctive sheep’s milk cheeses of the highest quality, from the popular Pecorino Romano to a broad range of small-batch artisan specialties.
Where to Start
Intersource West proudly carries a full assortment of cheeses from the Pinna family, with 30+ items to choose from. While Pecorino Romano is considered a mainstay in the cheese case, here are three truly unique sheep’s milk cheeses from Fratelli Pinna to round out and distinguish your selection:
Fiore Sardo DOP – A cheese with ancient origins, this “flower of Sardinia” is the oldest cheese variety produced on the island and bears a pronounced smoky aroma and sharp, tangy flavor. Legend has it that shepherds would compensate land owners with Fiore Sardo for allowing the sheep to graze the pastures. The cheese was originally handcrafted over an open fire and rubbed in ashes to preserve it. Modern production methods maintain the original flavor profile of this raw milk cheese through a natural smoking process, which also creates the distinctive dark rind. Cured for a minimum of 4 months (often longer), this firm, dense cheese is ideal for grating and shredding over pasta dishes or minestrone soup. If you’re not carrying this superstar cheese, you’re missing the boat.
Brigante – Mild and approachable, this semi-soft sheep’s milk cheese has a bright clean flavor with undertones or citrus and herbs. Cured only 20 – 30 days, it is the perfect start to a cheese tasting and is versatile for culinary applications. In Italy, it is commonly enjoyed as a table cheese by young and old alike. Make your antipasto stand apart from the crowd with Brigante!
Ricotta Salata – During the production of Genuine Pecorino Romano, the whey is drained and added to fresh sheep’s milk delivered from local shepherds to produce this mild, slightly salty cheese. The firm, slightly crumbly texture makes it an ideal topping for salads, specialty flatbreads and authentic pasta dishes. If you haven’t paired this cheese with beets or watermelon, now is the time to give it a try!
Learn about more “must haves” to build your authentic Italian cheese selection and how to include sheep’s milk cheeses on a menu by contacting us today.
Always stumped when it comes to sheep trivia? Geek out on sheep’s milk microbiology and gain deeper insights into why these cheeses are often described as having “wooly,” “sweet” or “animalic” flavors with Pat Polowski’s Cheese Science Toolkit. Spoiler alert: you’ll be learning about fatty acids.
Here’s to being sheepish no more!