Bagnolese Pecorino

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The Bagnolese Sheep is an autochthonous breed from Campania that got its name from the village of Bagnoli Irpino in the province of Avellino. It probably derives from the crossbreeding of the Barbaresca breed and the local breeds of the Apennines. Over time it spread from Irpinia to the entire region up to the provinces of Caserta and Salerno. Today there are about a thousand exemplars in the zone of the plateau of Laceno so that, strictly speaking, it cannot really be considered endangered of extinction, yet still this truly interesting breed deserves to be valorized considering the excellent quality of the dairy products derived from its milk: pecorino as well as ricotta cheese (fresh or salted and aged). It does not differ much from the Barbaresca breed of ancient North African origin, which is now diffused in all of Sicily. It is quite large in size – the male exemplars weigh about 100 kilos and the female circa 60 – it has white fleece with dark spots on the back and a dappled head. The female sheep has no horns and a pronounced montonino profile. The ears are long, wide and hanging with small black dots. It’s a rustic breed, well adapted to pastureland in rough conditions. It provides great milk as well as meat products, and young lambs, fed exclusively with milk, are appreciated in local cuisine for their particularly soft and delicate meat. In Irpinia these sheep are still largely kept in wild or semi wild state, fed on herbal pastureland with integration only in the winter months. Most of the breeders own merely a few hundred sheep and produce above all pecorino cheese. These cheeses are characterized by a hard and compact rind of yellow to brown color, a hard, straw-colored paste of high fat content, which best develops its properties after an aging period of at least two months. A rustic and simple cheese, yet of very specific character. Fresh Bagnolese Pecorino is generally served as an appetizer, at the end of the meal or as an ingredient in various dishes. When aged it takes on a decidedly piquant flavor and is used above all as grated cheese. Bagnolese Pecorino is often paired with the dense and alcoholic Aglianico wines produced in the area of Avellino, although the very aged and spicy versions might ideally be consumed together with sweet wines.

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