Let’s face it, anyone with canned tomatoes, herbs, diced veggies and an appetite can make a decent minestrone soup. To make a great minestrone soup however, it takes a little something extra, something that will give the soup a fuller, deeper and more complex flavor. That ingredient my friends, is Parmesan rinds. Parmesan rinds are salty, cheesy and jam packed with umami. As always, cheese makes everything better.
Seeing various minestrone recipes call for Parmesan rinds got me curious. Could the inedible end of a block of cheese really be the secret to great minestrone? I mean, it fit perfectly within the guidelines of my cardinal rule, “anything that can be enhanced with added Parmesan, will be enhanced with added Parmesan,“ so I decided to ask my personal chef brother, Tom. He said to chop up the rinds, add them to the soup, cook for about an hour, then actaully eat the rinds in the soup. This threw me off because the recipes I had looked at said to discard the rinds after cooking. Tom assured me that once the Parmesan rinds are cooked, they become a chewy consistency with a cheesy taste. I’m not one to turn down anything cheesy, so I went with it.
Here is my original minestrone recipe:
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 3 carrots, chopped
- 3 celery stocked, chopped
- Parmesan rinds, cut into cubes (these are sold at Whole Foods, usually for less than $2)
- 1 quart chicken stock
- 2 cups water
- 2 zucchini, chopped
- 14 oz. can white beans
- 2 cups chopped spinach (frozen works, but fresh is better)
- 2 cups green beans, chopped
- 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
- 3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 2 cups rotini pasta
- olive oil
- grated parmesan
- Heat oil in a big soup pot. Add the garlic, onions, carrots and celery and cook for 3 minutes.
- Add chicken stock and water, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.
- Add diced tomatoes, parmesan rinds, a small handful of chopped basil, some thyme and the white beans.
- Heat oil in sauté pan, when hot add the zucchini, spinach and green beens. Cook for 2 minutes and then add contents of pan to soup pot.
- Cook soup on low for 1.5-2 hours.
- Cook pasta separately and set aside.
- To serve add the pasta to the soup and top with grated parmesan.
The Parmesan rinds turned out great, and they made the soup souper flavorful, hehe. They didn’t fully cook after an hour, though. Give them 1.5 – 2 hours to fully soften. I ate them anyway, and I loved it, they are like mini Parmesan sponges with a hard center. The best part was eating the soup the next day, the rinds were the perfect chewy consistency.
Another key ingredient was the THYME. It is my favorite herb (and not just because I like to say THYME all the THYME). If I had used a slow cooker, I would have given the thyme more thyme to soak in. Ok.. I’m done…