A hard cheese, Romano is named after the city where it was first developed, Rome. It has a creamy white color and can be prepared out of cow, goat, or sheep milk. Romano cheese adds a sharp, salty, appetizing flavor and pleasing texture to various dishes like pesto, pasta, pizza, casseroles, and savory pastries. It’s also delicious when combined with cucumbers and fresh tomatoes and other raw applications.
While Romano pairs well with diverse dishes, it can be difficult to come by and is typically quite expensive. Fortunately, these Romano cheese substitutes can help you achieve a similar result!
Parmesan is a hard cheese that is made using unpasteurized cow’s milk. Named after the Italian province of Parma, this DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta, meaning Protected Designation of Origin) cheese is only made in specific areas of Italy. When aged for a minimum of two years, Parmesan has a rich and sharp flavor, pungent aroma, and a crumbly texture similar to Romano, making it a popular alternative for the original ingredient.
Parmesan can be grated over dishes, and as it melts well, it works beautifully when added to baked pasta dishes, pastries, and bread. Parmesan, however, is less tangy than Romano and is much less salty as the production methods are different. So, you might want to add more salt to achieve a similar flavor profile. Just make sure to taste test to avoid making the dish overly salty.
You can use Parmesan as a 1:1 substitute for Romano.
Please note: Parmesan is not regulated in the US, meaning Parmesan produced in the US doesn’t have to be matured for the traditional 2-year span. It won’t taste like the real thing, so try to find an aged version for a similar effect.
2. Spanish Manchego
Spanish Manchego is a semi-hard white cheese produced in Spain’s La Mancha region using pasteurized sheep’s milk. This DOP cheese has a tangy flavor similar to that of Romano and is available in several varieties, each of which is classified based on how long the cheese has been aged.
While Spanish Manchego is less salty and slightly sweeter than Romano, it still works as a good alternative to Romano in many dishes. It shines best when grated over pasta, baked into pastries, or served as table cheese alongside olives, ham, cured meat, and crusty bread. For a near likeness in flavor profile, go for Manchego Viejo. It is aged for at least one year, is slightly flaky, and has a sharp, slightly sweet flavor that will work beautifully in various dishes.
You can use Spanish Manchego as a 1:1 substitute for Romano.
Asiago is an Italian cheese made from unpasteurized cow’s milk. It is smooth in texture and has a mild flavor when it’s fresh. The aged version, however, is firmer, more crystallized, and develops a sharp and pungent flavor. While Asiago has a more nuanced flavor than Romano, it can be used in a pinch to replace the original ingredient.
You can grate Asiago over foods for a salty bite. As it has a slightly softer texture and doesn’t dry out quickly, it can also be enjoyed by itself, as part of a cheese platter, or as a pizza topping. Keep in mind that Asiago has the DOP status, and while it is produced in the United States and Australia as well, you’ll want to find the real version that is made in certain locations in Northern Italy for a more authentic taste.
You can use Asiago as a 1:1 substitute for Romano.
Piave is a hard, cooked curd cheese named after the Piave river; it is sometimes referred to as Parmesan’s cousin. Piave is made from cow’s milk, has a DOP status, is produced in Belluno, Italy, and is sold in five levels of maturity. This white cheese has a slightly sweet flavor and a dense and flaky texture when young. As the cheese ages, it darkens in color and matures into a strong, full-bodied nuttier flavor.
Piave cheese is slightly sweeter and less salty than Romano, but it works well as a substitute for Romano. It is easier to grate and has a sharp flavor that shines in cheesy oven-baked polenta or slow-cooked dishes. It can also be eaten fresh, spread over bread, or combined with fruit desserts. However, because Piave is less salty, you may need to adjust the amount of salt used to achieve a similar effect as Romano in your dishes.
You can use Piave as a 1:1 substitute for Romano.
5. Grana Padano
Grana Padano is a hard, Italian cheese made from aged cow’s milk. It has a richer, sweeter, more subtle flavor than Romano and a slightly less crumbly texture. While it has the DOP status, the production of Grana Padano follows less strict guidelines. It may be produced in a much larger part of Italy and is less expensive than other Italian cheeses, earning it the nickname “poor man’s cheese”.
Grana Padano can replace Romano cheese in a number of recipes. As Grana Padano melts easily, it’s great for grating over pasta or for serving on a charcuterie board. While you can use it in an equal amount as Romano, the amount of Grana Padano you use may need to be adjusted depending on the other ingredients in your recipe. You should also consider adding a little salt to balance out the subtle sweetness of Grana Padano.
You can use Grana Padano as a 1:1 substitute for Romano.
Please note: While these substitutes are great, they are not suitable for those allergic to dairy or following a vegan diet.
6. Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast is a type of yeast sold specifically as a food product and is often used in vegan cooking. It contains nine essential amino acids as well as B vitamins. It also has a cheesy, savory flavor that mimics the flavor of Romano cheese.
Nutritional yeast is available in the form of flakes, powder, and granules and can be sprinkled on top of food or baked and blended into dishes. It has a nutty, umami flavor that can be stronger than Romano, so a little goes a long way. You can also combine nutritional yeast with cashews to create a more buttery and nutty flavor similar to Romano.
Use half the amount of nutritional yeast as Romano in your dishes.