A pear, basil, and pecorino Toscano salad is a different, yet sublimely tasty, take on your basic salad. Salty and meaty pecorino and crisp-juicy pears get tossed with basil and super simple vinaigrette to great effect.
Fashion sweeps through restaurants in Italy as quickly and thoroughly as in all other aspects of life there. A few years ago, arugula, pear, and pecorino salad turned up everywhere. I tried basil in place of arugula and loved the still pungent yet milder flavor. I start making this pear, basil, and pecorino Toscano salad in the early fall with little juicy pears and aromatic end-of-the-season basil from the farmers’ market. Later, as the first frost creeps down through the Hudson Valley and the basil disappears, I substitute thinly sliced hearts of celery and whole celery leaves (the celery is also wonderful along with the basil).–Sara Jenkins
Pear, Basil, and Pecorino Toscano Salad
- 12 ounces pecorino Toscano cheese
- 4 ripe Bosc pears cored and cut into eighths
- 1 cup packed basil leaves
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon Vin Santo vinegar or other high-quality mild white wine vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon fleur de sel or other medium-coarse sea salt or more to taste
- Coarsely ground black pepper
- Using the tip of a sharp paring knife, break cheese into irregular chunks about 1/2-inch in size.
- Place cheese, pear slices, basil leaves, oil, vinegar, and salt in a large bowl and toss to combine. Season with pepper and more salt if needed.
- Serve at once.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I’m not one to gush about salads, but this one is definitely a keeper. It looks like autumn in a bowl, and when you eat it, you can’t help but feel a bit of that Italian rustic romance (especially on Super Bowl Sunday, the day I served this). Although the author says you can use different cheeses in this salad, I would recommend steering clear of pecorino Romano. It really is too salty for the pears, and I would hate for you to under-appreciate this salad based on just the cheese. I used Grand Old Man pecorino Toscano, which lent almost a buttery flavor. It’s a beautiful, simple dish.
Originally published November 23, 2009