should you add parmesan to pasta sauce while cooking or use it as a topping only?

  • Posted by: emma
  • October 25, 2015


Zen June 1, 2018
I added parmesan while cooking sauce, it became rubber and tasteless. Can someone guide me here..?
Smaug June 1, 2018
You may have left it in too long- I (and I believe most others) add it to the sauce with the cooked pasta for just a minute or so on low or no heat, right before serving.
702551 June 1, 2018
Like anything else, if you boil something long enough, all the flavor will be extracted from the solid material. Sometimes this is intentional (veal bones for soup stock) other times it is not.

As Smaug and others have said, the easiest way to compensate for this is to add a little more cheese right before serving, so you get some of the fresh cheese flavor.

This is not a trick exclusive to parmesan cheese; one can do this with many ingredients. I use this strategy frequently when I cook with fresh herbs.

Best of luck.
Susan W. October 26, 2015
I don't grate the cheese into a red sauce, but the store next door to me sells the rinds for next to nothing, so I always have those on hand in my freezer for slow simmered soups, stews and sauces. They flavor dishes beautifully at a fraction of the cost and you don't have to deal with the cheese stuck to the pan or utensils. I then pass around a chunk of park around the table or, sometimes I walk around the table and grate the cheese for my guests.
702551 October 26, 2015

Make stock (chicken, vegetarian, whatever) and add parmesan rinds to a separate portion to extract the cheese flavor. Use this parmesan-enhanced stock for the pasta sauce.

Parmigiano Reggiano DOP is $18+/lb. at my local grocery store. It's far more sane and cost effective to use the rinds -- which would normally be discarded -- for stock flavor rather than grinding up cheese.
Smaug October 26, 2015
Well, normal's not my thing anyway- I have NEVER even considered discarding a Parmesan rind. They're a bit difficult to grate, but well worth it, especially as the 3yr. Parmesan I usually get is about half rind.
Susan W. October 26, 2015
CV, I usually put the rind directly into the dish, but I like the idea of putting it into the stock. I'm making frothy, garlicky beans (Greek Gigante beans) to which I'll add some pieces of boneless pork ribs. The stock is already made. How long would you simmer the stock with the rind to extract the flavor? I'm thinking 40 ish minutes?
702551 October 27, 2015
@Susan W:

Simmer with rinds like 1-1.5 hours to extract flavor. Taste as you go.
Susan W. October 27, 2015
Thanks CV. By the way, that's Brothy Garlicky beans...not frothy.
keg72 October 26, 2015
Another vote for the "doing both" camp. I tend to use the rind, rather than the cheese itself, in the sauce, although from time to time I'll use grated cheese. And then grated cheese on top.
PieceOfLayerCake October 25, 2015
I add a rind to sauce while its stewing, which adds depth of flavor, and then I pass some whole around at the table with a grater. A block is too precious (and expensive) to throw into a batch of sauce, but some shops will sell Parmigiano rinds on the cheap. If I want creaminess in a red sauce, I'd use plain yogurt or cream.
Smaug October 25, 2015
I, too, like to add some right at the end. It distributes it more evenly than sprinkling it on top (which, of course, I do also), but can make the dishes a bit difficult to wash- check particularly between the tines of your forks.
Jona @. October 25, 2015
If you add it while cooking it will incorporate with the sauce and make it creamier but the parmesan will be quite subtle, while if you use it as a topping it will create that nice melted cheese coating and the parmesan will be more powerful in the dish. I like it either way :)
emma October 25, 2015
yay thank you i'll do a bit of both!
inpatskitchen October 25, 2015
I like to add grated parmesan to my red sauce at the very end. It enriches and thickens the sauce. I also grate some for passing at the table.
emma October 25, 2015
yay thank you i'll do a bit of both!
Recommended by Food52