A wheel of carefully crafted Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is a true work of art. This nutty, salty, umami-rich cheese has been made for thousands of years in one specific region of Italy in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna, and Mantua. Every step in the production of this beloved cheese takes place in the region; the cows are fed only the finest diet, which produces the best milk, which leads to the best cheese in the world. Every step of this process is very natural; no additives are used during the process; the amazing complex taste and texture you get in a beautiful hunk of Parmigiano Reggiano are all thanks to milk, rennet, whey starter, salt, time, and the expert hands of the cheesemakers.
The entire wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano is edible, including the rind. Although many people think the rind is made from wax, Parmigiano Reggiano PDO (Protected Denomination of Origin) cheeses have a natural rind that forms on the cheese during the salting process. As it ages, the rind hardens, and once the wheel of cheese has aged to perfection (just like you, gorgeous) and passes all of the rigorous tests required of a PDO cheese, it is branded with iconic Parmigiano Reggiano markings.
Now, I’m sure you’ve seen me make it rain Parmigiano Reggiano in many of my recipes, but what you may not know is that when I have used up all of the cheese (we go through A LOT at my house!) I always save the rind to cook with. In fact, legend has it that when you throw away a Parmigiano rind, you’ll be cursed with overcooked pasta for a lifetime.
WARNING: THIS DOES NOT APPLY TO “PARMESAN CHEESE”; IT NEEDS TO BE THE REAL DEAL FROM ITALY!
Here are some of my favorite ways to use these gifts from the go
- Stocks and Soups- Parmigiano broth is like liquid gold. For a few hours, you can simmer a few rinds with herbs, garlic, onions, and black peppercorns in water to create some of the most delicious broth you’ve ever tasted. Or, just toss a rind or two into whatever soup you make to add an extra layer of flavor.
- Sauces and Ragus- I love to add a rind to my Lady Caterina Ragu; it adds the perfect hint of umami flavor that will have guests begging for the secret to your recipe. Also, sometimes if I’m feeling saucy, I’ll even add a rind to tomato sauce. It actually helps to thicken sauces in addition to adding flavor.
- Rice, Beans & Grains- Toss a rind into the pot when making dried beans or grains to addle subtle complexity.
- Risotto- Add a few rinds to your broth of choice when making risotto to infuse flavor into every grain of arborio!