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Flavoring Soup with Parmesan

By Cook's Illustrated Published January 2010

In the test kitchen, we save Parmesan rinds in a zipper-lock bag in the freezer to add depth to recipes like Hearty Minestrone. If you’ve discarded your last Parmesan rind, is there another way to infuse your soup with cheese flavor?

To find out, we prepared three batches of Hearty Minestrone, adding a plain 2-ounce chunk of Parmesan to one, a cheesecloth-wrapped 2-ounce chunk to another, and 1 ounce of finely grated Parmesan to a third.

The grated Parmesan imparted a nice nutty flavor, but it muddied the texture of the soup. Wrapping the Parmesan in cheesecloth bound up its taste; we detected little cheesiness in that soup. The version made with a plain chunk was the clear winner, with flavor and texture closest to that of the original recipe. The only downside: It left stringy melted cheese in the pot. To remove it, slowly pour the cooked soup into a clean pot, leaving the cheese strands stuck to the bottom of the old pot.