Busy weeknights often mean we end up eating pasta for dinner. And though a box of rotini and a jar of marinara are a meal we’d never turn up our noses at, sometimes we want to make something a little more complex. When we’re craving a really hearty dinner, we’ll make a dish like Martha Stewart’s cheesy spaghetti with bacon, but lots of times we’re just looking for a recipe that’s like a slightly elevated version of the classic pasta and red sauce meal. That’s where Giada De Laurentiis comes in. Her recipe for pasta pomodoro is homemade but simple enough to be a weeknight meal, and the secret to getting impressive depth of flavor comes from a kitchen scrap you might not think to use: Parmesan rinds.
If you cook with Parmesan cheese, you may have been throwing away the last fraction of the wedge – the waxy rind and the cheese that’s so hard you can’t even grate it on your microplane. But you should never throw away Parmesan rinds! Simmering them in soups and sauces imparts a deep, umami flavor to whatever you’re cooking (and the melty slabs of cheese make for a tasty chef’s treat). Most of the cheese will melt away into your dish, and you can remove any chunks that remain before serving your meal.
De Laurentiis uses Parmesan rinds to make her pomodoro sauce sing. She recommends storing the rinds in the freezer, then taking them out whenever you need to add one to a recipe.
The other secret to her pasta pomodoro recipe? Instead of using canned San Marzano tomatoes, she uses Pomodorini, or canned cherry tomatoes. According to De Laurentiis, they’re much sweeter than your usual canned tomatoes.
Along with a carrot, garlic, and some basil, the cherry tomatoes and Parmesan rinds simmer until you’ve got a bright and flavorful sauce, well-balanced between sweet, savory, and tangy, that’s so much better than anything from a jar. After your first bite, you’ll never throw away a Parmesan rind again.
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