As a child, I found myself shying away from a food that kids typically enjoy : cheese. Of course I ate cheese on pizza, but in any other form, cheese was simply out of the question. Cheese sticks? Nope. Grilled cheese? Not a chance. Cheese on a sandwich? Don't even bother asking. Only recently have I opened up my palate up to cheese.
A few years ago, I ordered spaghetti bolognese in an Italian restaurant. When it arrived at my table, I dug in before noticing the snow-like shavings of Locatelli cheese on top. Instantly, I fell in love.
Locatelli is a well known brand of Italian Pecorino Romano, a tangy sheep's milk cheese that has a distinct, salty taste. It is traditionally aged for a minimum of 9 months. Pecorino Romano is perhaps one of the oldest known cheeses made in Rome. Romano literally means “of Roman descent”. Pecorino is the Italian word meaning “from sheep’s milk”.
To give an idea of the caliber of Locatelli cheese, consider Locatelli as the Rolls Royce of Pecorino Romano cheeses. While Locatelli is fantastic atop spaghetti, as I first tried it, it is also terrific eaten alone.
One of my favorite recipes uses Locatelli cheese in a way that I never could have imagined. I typically eat light meals, but I love to indulge on occasion with mushroom risotto. This risotto uses baby portobello and button mushrooms to add an earthy flavor to a traditional rice meal. Usually, risotto is made with heavy cream and lots of butter to create a silky texture and rich sauce within the rice, but my recipe uses only a touch of butter for finishing off the dish.
To supplement the cream, I use a handful of freshly grated Locatelli cheese. The cheese beautifully melts into the hot rice and adds a slight bit of salt that wakes up all of the flavors and brings the dish together to make a rich-tasting dish. The starches in the short-grain Arborio rice are released and allow the dish to naturally thicken.
Risotto that is prepared the traditional Italian way of adding chicken broth in small amounts over the course of 25 minutes is tedious and time-consuming, but it is oh-so worth it. My garnishes of choice for mushroom risotto are chives and another sprinkle of Locatelli. Why? Because I am truly loco for Locatelli!
Emily is a 7th grader at Randolph Middle School. She began cooking at around age 7, and since that time has taken numerous cooking courses in New Jersey as well as Vermont. She is the founder of Mitzvah Meals from Emily’s Kitchen, a monthly, volunteer-based program that provides meals to members of her synagogue who are experiencing hardship.
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