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).
You can make this pear salad with many different cheeses; each one will change the flavor slightly. Look for a cheese that will keep its shape in a salad, such as an aged cheddar, Parmigiano-Reggiano, or a crumbly blue.–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