Still Throwing Away Your Parm Rinds? Here's the Reason to Stop

Plus, other delicious ways to use Parmigiano Reggiano that go beyond a finishing touch.

December 11, 2020
Photo by Rocky Luten. Prop Stylist: Megan Hedgpeth. Food Stylist: Lauren LaPenna.

We've partnered with the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium to share delicious ways to use this savory powerhouse in your cooking—and prove that it’s so much more than just a topping. This cheese is made with only three ingredients, but the real magic comes after it's been aged for more than a year (in Italy, according to old-school methods). That aging gives it the singular taste, crumbly texture, and unique aroma we can't resist.

If I had to choose one cheese I couldn’t live without, Parmigiano Reggiano would be it. Although there are many imitators, the real, certified stuff is meticulously and exclusively produced in certain provinces of northern Italy—with a nearly thousand-year-old tradition behind it—making each granule worth savoring.

We all know it’s the ideal finishing touch for pretty much any pasta dish, but Parmigiano Reggiano is also the salty-savory staple I turn to when making pillowy gnocchi doughs, rich tortelloni fillings, and deeply flavored broths.

Now that the colder months are upon us, I’ve made sure my cheese drawer is well-stocked, so I’m ready to pull together a comforting meal when I need it most. Here are some of my favorite ways to incorporate every element of this perfect cheese into my carb-heavy cooking—rind and all!—and the Parmigiano-infused ravioli soup that’s taking center stage in my kitchen this season.

1. As a pasta-making sidekick

I was quick to learn that snacks are a necessity when starting any sort of pasta-making. There’s plenty of joy in taking the time to create delicious food, but the hangry monster inside me often still rears its ugly head.

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Top Comment:
“What happens to the rind when you put it in soup? Does it melt or do you remove before serving?”
— JP

So when I need a little something to keep my good mood going, a few small hunks of Parmigiano Reggiano drizzled with a touch of traditional balsamic vinegar always do the trick. The sharp nuttiness of the cheese alongside the sweet tang of the vinegar makes for a perfectly balanced bite, and a little goes a long way in keeping me satisfied when folding tortellini and rolling cavatelli.

2. As gnocchi’s best friend

Pillowy potato dumplings topped with a mountain of cheese are hard to resist. But pillowy potato dumplings seasoned with cheese on the inside and the outside? No comparison. Mixing a generous handful of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano into your gnocchi dough will give the dish another layer of salt and a hit of umami.

Better yet, the cheese helps soak up some of the excess moisture from the potatoes, so things stay light, airy, and anything but gummy. It’s equally excellent sprinkled into other types of gnocchi, like ricotta and sweet potato, as well as the more delicate gnudi and malfatti.

3. As a pasta-filling star

Parmigiano Reggiano hails from Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, in particular the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna, and Mantua. It’s probably no surprise that many of the country’s most prized pastas are rooted in the same area, including filled favorites like tortellini, cappelletti, anolini, and cappellacci di zucca (“pumpkin hats”).

These pastas are often filled with a combination of meats, local cheeses, and/or seasonal vegetables. But all of them include Parmigiano Reggiano, and for good reason: Like with gnocchi, the cheese adds a level of richness while also serving as a thickener. (And with pasta fillings, the thicker the better, so you’re not left with a stock pot full of loose cheese!). So whatever’s on the menu for your next filled-pasta project, don’t forget the Parmigiano.

4. As a sauce booster

It’s true that the pecorino-heavy cacio e pepe is hard to beat, but a showering of Parmigiano Reggiano can breathe life into plenty of pasta sauces, too.

Of course, the more classic pasta al limone and pesto Genovese immediately come to mind, but I often find myself reaching for Parmigiano Reggiano when experimenting in the kitchen: swirling it into a creamy butternut squash sauce to balance the sweetness; tossing it with an earthy mushroom, chestnut, and herb combination; or simply whisking it together with cream in an elegant fonduta. And even if you’re just planning to use the cheese for garnish, it never hurts to add a sprinkling of Parmigiano as the pasta simmers in its sauce for a few moments before serving—that way, you can enjoy some of that cheesy goodness in every bite.

5. As an unsung hero of soups, stocks, broths & beans

If there’s one thing I’ve learned when it comes to Parmigiano Reggiano, it’s to never throw away the rind. Just think of all the flavor packed into that logo'd exterior!

This too-often-untapped gold mine is the ideal addition to any hearty stock or delicate broth, like the one I use as a base for my roasted winter squash soup with sfoglia lorda, Parmigiano Reggiano, and crispy sage. Just throw in a rind or two with the liquids and aromatics and your soups will never be the same. And while I’m not much of a planner, I’ve started keeping a little collection in my fridge so when wintertime arrives, I have plenty of rinds to kick off the season.

What are your favorite tricks for using Parmigiano Reggiano? Sound off in the comments!

In partnership with the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium, we’re sharing some of the ways this staple can be incorporated into cooking—beyond just being showered over a plate of pasta. Whether it’s adding a uniquely complex character to sauces or packing an umami punch in a broth, there’s much more to this Italian staple than you might think. Any way you slice it—or grate it, or infuse it—Parmigiano Reggiano is one ingredient your fridge should never be without.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • JP
  • Liz Summers
    Liz Summers
  • Smaug
  • Meryl Feinstein, Pasta Social Club
    Meryl Feinstein, Pasta Social Club
Meryl Feinstein is a chef and pastaia who left the corporate world for the food industry in 2018. After graduating from the Institute of Culinary Education, Meryl got her start at the renowned New York establishments Lilia and Misi, where she was part of the pasta production team. During that time, Meryl founded Pasta Social Club, a platform that brings people together over a shared love of food, learning, and making connections both on- and offline. She now lives in Austin, where she hosts virtual pasta-making workshops and develops recipes. Her dishes draw on her travels in Italy, ongoing research into the rich history of traditional pasta-making, and her Jewish heritage.


JP December 12, 2020
What happens to the rind when you put it in soup? Does it melt or do you remove before serving?
Liz S. December 13, 2020
I will be interested to hear Meryl's answer, but my experience ... I remove the rind like you would remove a bay leaf. I.E., it does not melt completely [for me].
Smaug December 13, 2020
Personally, I just grate the rinds and use them normally; they melt with no trouble, but a large piece would take some time. I find it hard to believe that people throw rinds away, but then people throw away tomato water, chili soaking water etc.
Meryl F. December 14, 2020
It won't melt completely, but it'll soften significantly as it cooks. You can remove it like a bay leaf (as Liz mentioned)--I know some people who cut it up and return it to the broth/soup for serving, and others who fry or broil it and eat it that way. :)
JP December 14, 2020
Thanks for the suggestions. I have three big pieces of rind from huge chucks of cheese that Italian guests have given to me. I knew I shouldn’t toss them but never understood the rind in soup thing.