I usually discover (and add) at least one new soup recipe to my rotation per winter. This year was a vegan mushroom bisque that’s as creamy as anything but as a major bonus, I also discovered one laughably simple trick for making the most flavorful soup ever. What’s more? It comes by way of something I’d been throwing away my entire gosh-darn, soup-makin’ life.
Parmesan cheese rind.
For years, Italian chefs and nonnas alike have been using this often discarded item to amp up their soups and sauces. But it wasn’t until this year that I learned of the practice via my own mom—a prolific soup-maker—who herself discovered the cheese rind-in-soup trick from one of her favorite cookbooks, “The Science of Good Cooking” (America’s Test Kitchen).
The Science of Good Cooking, $27.30 on Amazon
It’s simple: just drop the rind of a finished block of hard Italian cheese, like Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano Reggiano, or Taleggio, into a soup (or tomato sauce) just as it begins to simmer. If left in long enough, the rind will dissolve completely, imparting a rich, salty and nutty umami flavor—which is densely concentrated in a hard cheese rind. If your rind doesn’t quite dissolve by the time you’re ready to serve, fish it out with a slotted spoon as you don’t want anyone to chip a tooth.
Keep in mind, adding an Italian cheese rind might not be a great match for all soups but, certainly, any classic Italian soup like minestrone, Italian wedding, or tomato basil will be better for it. It’ll work well for some not as decidedly Italian soups, too, like the aforementioned mushroom bisque (non-vegan) or rich potato leek, and the same goes for a slow Sunday tomato sauce or hearty bolognese.
Parmigiano Reggiano 5 Years, $35 per pound on Murray's Cheese
Couldn't hurt to ask for extra rind.
So the next time you grate off that last few centimeters of a nutty parmesan over risotto or bowl of pasta and turn to toss it out, think of your next soup and stash it away for a chilly evening ahead. Oh, and be sure to label it, lest some poor unknowing housemate were to throw it away thinking it was garbage.
Got an extra parmesan cheese rind laying around? Here are five tasty winter soups (and one sauce) to toss it into.
This is probably the best example of a soup that will benefit from a parmesan rind. Not that there’s anything wrong with minestrone soup, per se, but it doesn’t exactly register a 10 on the excitement scale. That is, until now… Get our Minestrone Soup recipe.
Related Reading: 15 Creamy Soup Recipes for Warding Off Cold Winter Weather
We probably shouldn’t mess with one of our all-time most beloved soup recipes too much, but there is no way a little more deep parmesan flavor could possibly make tomato soup taste worse. Get our Classic Tomato Soup recipe.
I might try cutting back on the cream just slightly in this recipe to let the parmesan flavor really stand out. A perfect cold-weather soup. Get our Creamy Potato Leek Soup recipe.
Chicken soup, like this slow cooker chicken soup, has flavors that mix and mingle well with parmesan so you’d be wise to add a rind to it before you leave the house. Get our Slow Cooker Chicken Soup recipe.
Related Reading: The Best Bouillon Cubes & Flavor Bases for Soup Season
Many pesto recipes have parmesan in them so there’s just no way a salty parmesan rind won’t make this hearty soup better. Get our Pesto, Chicken and White Bean Soup recipe.
And it’s not just soups that should share in the glory of a parmesan cheese rind. Try adding it to your next pasta sauce just before you leave it to simmer. Get our Marinara Sauce recipe.
Header image courtesy of Getty Images.