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How Massimo Bottura Turns Leftover Parmigiano Rinds Into Bouncy Noodles

Parmigiano rinds are entirely edible — and thanks to this trick, entirely delicious.

<p>Getty</p>

Getty

As a Parmigiano enthusiast, I will take every opportunity to eat as much cheese as possible. When waiters offer to grate extra cheese over a bowl of pasta, they expect me to stop them after a respectful five seconds, but I often keep it going to a jaw-dropping 20. At home, with Parmigiano costing upwards of $25 per pound, I savor my block of Parmigiano and use every last bit. Once I’ve eaten the cheese, I use the rind to flavor broths, soups, and stews with savory, umami-rich cheesiness.

And now, thanks to renowned chef Massimo Bottura, I turn Parmigiano rinds into chewy noodles.

At Bottura’s bed and breakfast, Casa Maria Luigia, in Modena, Italy, he serves a take on pasta e fagioli from Emilia Romagna, the northern Italian region where he grew up. It’s a favorite dish for Bottura (“I grew up eating pasta and beans,” he told me during a recent interview) and is how he uses every part of a wheel of Parmigiano.  I sat down with Bottura while traveling with a group as a part of American Express’ By Invitation Only, a unique benefit for Platinum and Centurion Cards Members that provides VIP access to cultural events and experiences. First, he makes tender dumplings from grated Parmigiano, breadcrumbs, and eggs, and simmers them in a broth. He adds the Parmigiano rinds to the broth to add richness. But instead of discarding the rinds before serving the dish, he reserves them for another purpose. Bottura pulls the rinds from the broth when they are soft, but not at the point when they are falling apart. He dries off the rinds, then uses a sharp knife or mandoline to create thin, noodle-like cuts. He returns them to the pot and simmers them for a few minutes, until the thin strips of rind transform into chewy, cheesy noodles.

Related: How Massimo Bottura Keeps Parmesan Fresh

“They look and feel just like maltagliati,” he says of the cheese noodles. Maltagliati is a thin sheet-like pasta shape whose name translates in English to ‘bad cuts’ and is often made from leftover pasta dough. “As a kid, I used to steal bits of the boiled Parmigiano and eat it like chewing gum,” says Bottura.

If you have ever tried to slice into a Parmigiano rind, you know that it is tough and hard. Unlike some hard cheeses like gouda or manchego that are dipped in a wax coating before they are aged, Parmigiano’s rind is formed naturally as the cheese’s exterior air-dries, making it entirely edible. After the curds are pressed into plastic molds, the wheels get a lengthy dip in a salt water bath, which draws out moisture from inside the cheese and begins the aging process. As the Parmigiano Reggiano ages (for at least 12 months) before it is released to market, a hard rind forms, protecting the cheese inside. When boiled until soft, that rind has all the salty and umami flavors of the cheese inside, along with a satisfyingly chewy texture.

Related: Buying Parmigiano-Reggiano? Why Age Matters More Than You Might Think

This isn’t Bottura’s only dish featuring the Parmigiano rinds. At Osteria Francescana, his Michelin three-starred restaurant in Modena that was named best restaurant in the world for multiple years, Bottura serves a dish called “A Compression of Pasta and Beans,” which transforms his pasta e fagioli with maltagliati Parmigiano rinds into a fine dining masterpiece. Layered like a trifle, the dish is served in a small glass with creamy broth, ham, thinly sliced Parmigiano rinds and a smoky, flavorful foam. It’s fine dining, but the roots are simple. For Bottura, eating Parmigiano rinds not only reminds him of one of his favorite childhood food memories, but is also part of a larger ethos around cooking. “This dish is all about recycling,” he says of his respect for even the most humble ingredients that are often thrown away. “The Parmigiano rind can be the centerpiece of the recipe.”

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