If you’re the kind of person who likes to traffic in obscure cheese, you’ll want to add Paški Sir to your list. It looks like an aged Parm with a thick, honey-colored rind and flecks of protein crystals, but the smell and taste are nuttier and brighter, with hints of melon, spruce, and citrus.
Paški Sir is the first imported cheese from Croatia – it’s actually produced off the coast, on a craggy island called Pag. There, Paški Sir has been made for centuries, along with delicate lacework. The unique taste, which has a sort of lacy delicacy all its own, is attributed to a breed of small, indigenous sheep.
This is an exceptional cheese for grating over spring vegetables, asparagus in particular. Just steam the stalks, drizzle them with olive oil and fresh lemon juice; add a crack of pepper, a pinch of sea salt, and top with Paški Sir. Try it with sautéed morels or fiddleheads, too.
Cheesemonger Hunter Fike had the great idea to add Paški Sir to pesto, using pistachios instead of pine nuts. I played around with the combination for a light, spring pasta dish and was pleasantly surprised at the results. Pistachios and Paški Sir are a perfect compliment to one another – they’re both delicate, understated, and yet distinct.
Paški Sir with Pasta and Spring Vegetables
This is an easy dish to prepare, perfect for a light supper on the patio with a glass of white wine. Feel free to add other fresh vegetables, such as baby spinach, sliced summer squash, or snap peas.
- 8 oz. of whole wheat Tubetti (half a bag)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups Crimini or Button mushrooms, chopped
- 8-12 asparagus stalks, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 10-12 cherry tomatoes
- Juice, plus zest, of one lemon
- 2 tablespoons chopped basil
- 4 tablespoons pistachios, shelled
- Olive oil
- Sea salt
- Paški Sir, grated
While pasta water boils in a big pot, use a skillet to sauté garlic and mushrooms in olive oil (about 2 tablespoons). Brown over medium heat, until the mushrooms are dark in color, then turn heat to low and add asparagus. Sauté slowly so that the stalks remain crisp.
Drain pasta, and toss with more olive oil, lemon zest, sautéed vegetables, salt and pepper. Divide among four bowls, and squeeze fresh lemon over each. Top each dish with basil, pistachios, and grated Paški Sir.
For more cheese recipes, please visit Madame Fromage.