Thursday, May 31, 2012

Recipe: Pecorino-Romano Cheese Sauce

The other night, we had thawed chicken breasts, leftover grilled veggies, and three cups of heavy cream crowded together in the fridge, and for me this was just another night of "how can I pull these things together to create a dinner that tastes good AND helps clear out the fridge." The answer was simple: Make a sauce with the cream and toss it with the chicken, veggies, and maybe some pasta (which, of course, we always have on hand in the pantry). So, sauce. Cheese sauce made the most sense. But what kind of cheese? Well, I had an assortment to choose from— Gouda, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Jarlsberg—and I chose Pecorino-Romano, craving its distinct salty flavor. A little garlic, some onion and seasonings, and a splash of chicken broth added to the cream and cheese mix created a velvety, salty sauce that brightened up lightly-seasoned chicken and previously-grilled veggies.

Yields: About 1-1.5 cups
Prep. time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10-15 minutes
Difficulty: Easy


  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • Approx. 1/4 cup chicken stock/broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2-3/4 cup shredded/grated Pecorino-Romano cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper (or more, to taste)
  • 1 tbsp. dried basil (or more, to taste)
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano (or more, to taste)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Cornstarch (mixed with water; as needed)

In a medium pot over medium-low heat, melt the butter, then add the garlic and onion and cook for approx. 3-4 minutes, until the mixture is fragrant and slightly soft. Add the chicken stock, then slowly whisk in the heavy cream and increase the heat to medium. When the mixture starts to bubble slightly around the edges, slowly add in the cheese, whisking constantly. Increase the heat slightly and continue to whisk until the cheese is almost completely melted. Whisk in a little regular milk if the mixture seems a little thick or lumpy. Add the white pepper, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper and whisk to combine. Let the mixture cook over medium to medium-high heat until thickened. If it seems a little thin, add a little bit of cornstarch (mix about 1 tsp. cornstarch with about 2 tbsp. cold water, then add it to the sauce). Serve over chicken, pasta, rice, vegetables, potatoes, etc. 

This sauce is creamy, salty, cheesy, and surprisingly light despite the heavy cream. It may seem quite salty and strong when tasted straight from the pot, but once tossed with warm pasta or poured over roasted red potatoes or a grilled chicken breast, it's absolutely perfect—bright and flavorful. We had it as a pasta sauce, tossed with pieces of sauteed chicken, whole wheat farfalle pasta, and grilled vegetables (squash, zucchini, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and onion) and it was ridiculously tasty. We had some sauce leftover, so we ate it over breaded chicken breasts and roasted new potatoes the next night, and it worked so well. Despite being a cream sauce, its bright, cheesy flavor works well in warm weather dishes.


  1. Oh man, this makes me want to go back to Blue! :)
    Is this more cheesy than a sauce with a base of a roux and either milk or chicken stock? I tried to make a pseudo cheese sauce a few nights ago that was "on the lighter side" but over-rouxed it like woah (think 4 tbsp butter and the appropriate amount of flour). It was fine once I seriously corrected the issue, but it wasn't super cheesy. Sad. Day.

  2. Blue isn't there anymore! It's some brightly-colored Mexican restaurant now. :(

    Is this more or less cheesy than a sauce with a base of roux and milk/stock?...Um...well, I'm not quite sure. I think I'd say it's cheesier. It has cheesy cheesy flavor and it's probably a little gooier (in a great way) than a sauce with a basic roux and whatnot. Either way, it's very very good (but seriously, it tastes crazy strong when you're just tasting it as it mellows out once it's got stuff, i.e. pasta and veggies, to stick to). Sometimes the roux just kills cheese sauces, unless you do it just right (like, making a Bechamel and adding cheese, like a Mornay sauce).