Why You Should Absolutely Always Save Your Parmesan Cheese Rinds

Sure, freshly grated Parmesan sprinkled over pasta is great — but the (often trashed) rind is a flavor jackpot you never saw coming.

Some people achieve adulthood when they file their taxes on time. Others become full-grown adults when they break into a happy dance because they finally have health insurance. For some folks, adulthood is reached when they have a riveting conversation with their accountant about their 401k. For me, I graduated to adulthood when I started saving my Parmesan rinds and saving them for future cooking uses. Now that is something that a child could never do. A kid would throw away a Parmesan rind, thinking that it's gross, useless, and ugly. But not me. Because I am an adult. And I am smart enough to know that Parmesan rinds have great potential. In fact, they belong anywhere but the garbage.

We all know that moment after you have grated through your block of Parm for pastas, gnocchi, pizza, and risotto, and it's finally time to face the rind. Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened, I whisper to my disappearing cheese. When this devastating realization occurs, don't you dare even think about tossing the rind. Instead throw it in a zip top bag and store it in your freezer (it'll be fine for up to 6 months). It's okay if they start to look a little dried out because they'll instantly rehydrate when you cook them. Sure, your local cheesemonger will probably sell you a rind if you ask nicely, but you don't need to buy one if you've got a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano (the good stuff) in your fridge.

Parmesan cheese wedges

Before we dive into all the incredible ways you can utilize the rind, let's talk about what exactly it is. Parmigiano-Reggiano is an aged cheese, which means it's inevitable that it will develop a tough, waxy outer shell from the air-drying process. Because of this process, the rind develops on the exterior of the cheese, and it has a much tougher texture than the interior cheese. The aged flavors of the cheese are much more concentrated in the rind than it is in the cheese, making the rind a literal flavor explosion. The rind is completely safe to be consumed raw or cooked, though its texture is unappealing compared to that of the cheese.

Okay, back to the uses. Once you've managed to hold onto this unsuspecting flavor jackpot, there are plenty of tasty ways to put the rind to good use. You can throw it into simmering soups, stews, beans, and pasta dishes for an extra kick of salty, cheesy, funky flavor. Your dried beans, brothy, vegetal soups, chicken noodle soup, and bolognese will thank you. Throw it into broths and stocks for a subtle burst of rich cheesiness. If you're making risotto and you've got a pot of broth simmering to the side, go ahead and throw a rind in there, why don't you? There are a handful of cheeses whose rinds you'll want to stay far away from, but Parmigiano-Reggiano is not one of them.

Let the rind cook for at least 30 minutes and up to several hours, if you can, in order to unleash as much flavor as possible. Don't worry about overdoing it — the flavor of the rind will never overpower whatever it is that you're cooking. As the rind is cooking, don't forget to get in there and stir it every so often just to ensure that the flavor is evenly incorporated throughout the dish and so that it's not sticking to the bottom of the pot. Once your dish is done cooking, fish out the rind. While you definitely could eat the rind, the real point of adding it is for its flavor. Well that, and also to prove your adulthood. I don't care when you filed your taxes this year — stop being childish and hold onto those precious rinds, okay?

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