You’re Probably Throwing Away the Secret Ingredient to Mind-Blowing Soup

We've got good news: That crusty Parmesan rind you've been tossing is just as flavorful as the rest of the cheese. Here's how to use it.

The most delicious food can come from the thriftiest sources—think of an inexpensive cut of beef cooked low and slow until it melts off the bone or a thick blanket of stale bread crumbs, seasoned and baked to a toasty brown over a casserole.

Today’s magic secret ingredient is something you might actually be throwing away: the Parmesan rind left after the pale cheese has been grated away. Here’s how to use it.

(Grandma knew a thing or two about pinching pennies.)

What Makes Parmesan So Irresistible?

Though it might be crusty and rock-hard, a Parmesan rind is a delicious thing. The outer edge of the cheese hardens over time, but still contains full flavor.

According to Samin Nosrat, author of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat (and host of the eponymous Netflix special), Parmesan’s flavor is so special because it contributes three of the four secrets to delicious food: salt, of course, plus both fat and acid thanks to the dairy content.

Parmesan also adds umami to a dish. The so-called “fifth flavor,” umami roughly translates to savoriness or deliciousness, and lends a full feeling to the mouth. (Other umami ingredients include miso paste, mushrooms, soy sauce and Marmite.) Here’s the secret to infusing your recipes with umami flavor.

How to Use That Parmesan Rind

All you need is a bit of heat and liquid to release the flavor of your Parmesan rind. That makes it a perfect contender for soups, beans and sauces. Anything that tastes good with Parmesan will taste amazing with Parmesan rind. Think minestrone or any of these veggie-based soups, pots of beans made from scratch, corn or potato chowder and even pots of tomato sauce. (Love kitchen hacks? You’ve never seen these before.)

Simply toss the rind into the pot and allow it to simmer alongside the ingredients. When the soup is done, the Parmesan rind may have simply dissolved into the broth—lucky you! It’ll slightly thicken the broth, imparting richness as well as flavor. If any of the rind is left, fish it out and, if it’s soft enough, slice it into bite-sized pieces and stir back into the soup. If it’s still hard, simply discard it. (Or you can discreetly nibble at the rind while standing over the kitchen sink—we won’t tell anyone.)

Next time you finish up a wedge of cheese, wrap the rind in plastic and toss it in the freezer. It’ll keep indefinitely—ready and waiting to add oomph to your next soup or stew.

Need inspiration? These recipes celebrate the deliciousness of Parm.

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Kelsey Rae Dimberg
A former in-house editor at Taste of Home, Kelsey now writes articles and novels from her home in Milwaukee. She's an avid cook, reader, flâneur, and noir fanatic. Her debut novel, Girl in the Rearview Mirror, will be published in June 2019 by William Morrow.