One of the many things I love about Italian food culture is how nothing is wasted.
In Italy, you use old bread for Pappa Pomodoro and Panzanella. You use leftover pasta or veggies to make a frittata, and you save your Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds to add amazing flavor to all kinds savory dishes.
Yes, you heard me right friends- these savory cheese rinds are one of the best kept Italian Kitchen secrets!
If you haven’t been saving your Parmigiano rinds- don’t worry- it’s not too late… When you are finished using the cheese, cut the rinds into small pieces and put them in a freezer-safe bag or container. Stash them in the freezer and you’re done!
When we were living in Italy, we were spoiled silly being able to drive down the road and see how this magical food- known as the “King of Cheese” is made. We could buy excellent quality Parmigiano- Reggiano at our local grocery stores with our only thought being should I buy the 24 month or the 36 month today? (or even the 96 month at Eataly- drool…)
True Parmigiano-Reggiano is a DOP product, is only from a small area of Italy, in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, and parts of Bologna and Mantua. While the term “Parmesan” is sometimes used in Italy referring to Parmigiano-Reggiano, they are not the same thing anywhere else. In fact, outside of the EU cheese cannot be called Parmigiano-Reggiano unless it is a specifically stamped and approved DOP product.
Emilia-Romagna is quite a trek from us here in the Pacific Northwest, but don’t fret. You can find good quality Parmigiano-Reggiano in the US- you just have to know what to look for.
Start by skipping the “Parmesan” and only buying authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano imported from Italy. The quality is worth the price, believe me. The flavor is rich, complex and a little goes a long way. Look for the distinctive golden rind with the words Parmigiano-Reggiano on it. The rind is edible and not coated with anything toxic.
In Idaho, I buy mine locally. My favorite cheese shops in my area are in The Boise Co-Cop, Whole Foods, and the awesome Eagle Island Fred Meyer. You can also find good quality Parmigiano-Reggiano at Trader Joe’s and Costco.
If you have a specialty cheese store, I’d check with them first. If you don’t have any of these stores, you can also buy great quality Italian cheeses online from Murray’s Cheese & Gustiamo as well as others. Check out my Italian Pantry Staples for more resources.
Now you have some kitchen magic up your sleeve to pull out all winter long.
Here are my 6 favorite ways to use leftover Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds.
- Broth made with Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds is magic. (see below for the recipe) Use it to flavor risotto, for a simple tortellini in brodo that is vegetarian-friendly, or other dishes where a rich umami-filled broth would work.
- Parmigiano-Reggiano Crisps, where have you been all my life? Taking the rinds and broiling them is nothing short of amazing, at least if you are a cheese lover like me. It’s the best toasty, chewy, savory, salty snack and perfect for aperitivo time with a glass of Prosecco. (best served when still warm and gooey- but still edible if you make ahead for later, they’ll just be crunchy)
- Soup. Add a small piece to soups for added flavor, especially any bean soup or Minestrone.
- Risotto becomes extra decadent and luscious with a hunk of rind added while cooking.
- Tomato Sauce Add some depth to your Tomato Sauce. It’s probably heresy, but I love to add some rind to Marcella’s simple tomato sauce. (My go to simple sauce for weeknight dinners)
- Beans Boost the flavor of a pot of beans by adding a fresh bay leaf and a small piece of rind while they cook. (really nice in a crock-pot IMHO)
- Olive Oil
- 1 Sweet onion, quartered
- 1 head of garlic, left whole and cut crosswise
- 1 handful of peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 large handful of fresh Italian Parsley
- 2 c. Parmigiano-Reggiano rind pieces.
- 1 c. White Wine
- 8 c. Water
- Make a little herb bundle by tying the thyme and parsley together with kitchen twine.
- Heat 2 T. olive oil in a dutch oven or stock pot over medium low heat.
- Add garlic, onion, peppercorns, bay leaf and fresh herbs to the heated olive oil and cook over for about 5 minutes, or until golden brown- stirring occasionally so that the herbs don't burn.
- Add the wine, and stir carefully.
- Let the wine cook down until reduced by half.
- Add 8 cups of water & parm. rinds.
- Cook over low heat and stir occasionally so that the parmesan rinds don't stick to your pot.
- Cook 1-2 hours or until reduced by half.
- Taste and add salt if needed.
- Use immediately, or cool and refrigerate. (use within 3 days)
If you have a huge surplus of parmesan rinds, by all means, make a double or triple batch! But please note, this broth is rich and you won't need a mass amount to add a lot of flavor.
Let me know if you try any of these- or if you have tips or tricks that I missed!
p.s. You might like to peek at my Parmigiano-Reggiano Pinterest board– an ode to my love affair with this amazing cheese.