Parmesan, romano and asiago cheeses are all Italian cheeses.  They have a somewhat similar appearance but there are distinct, albeit subtle, differences in the taste.

Parmesan Cheese

Parmigiano Reggiano, the cheese we all know as Parmesan was first created in the regions of Emilia-Romagna and Lombardy Italy.  Parmesan cheese is made from cow’s milk and cooked pressed which results in a hard cheese with a harder crust.  Parmesan looks similar to Romano cheese, but it has a milder flavor.

Romano Cheese

Romano cheese, or Pecorino Romano is also cooked pressed resulting in a hard cheese.  It comes from the Lazio, Sardinia, and Tuscany.  Romano cheese is actually made from unpasteurized sheep’s milk rather than cow’s milk which gives it a sharper flavor than Asiago or Parmesan cheeses.

Pecorino Romano cheeses are usually aged for 8-12 months and the aging process also contributes to its sharper flavor.  Romano cheese is often blended with Parmesan and or Asiago cheeses to create a more mellow taste.

Asiago Cheese

Asiago cheese originated in the Vicenza and Trento regions of Italy. Asiago is a softer cheese than Romano or Parmesan but it can be found in semi-soft to hard blocks depending on how long it has been aged.  It’s also a moister cheese than Parmesan or Romano.

Which Cheese to Use?

I don’t think there is a right or wrong cheese to use with your Italian foods out of these three choices  It’s common to find cans of grated Romano and Parmesan side by side in the grocery store.  Very often we see blends of the three cheeses together in pre-shredded package cheeses.

I wouldn’t turn away a plate of pasta because it had the “wrong” kind of Italian cheese on it, but as you experiment with the different cheeses you will probably find you lean toward certain ones in different recipes due to the slight differences in the consistency and flavor.

Be sure to check out our post on what makes cheddar cheese sharp and why it’s yellow.

A wedge of aged parmesan cheese on a cutting board