Gnocchi in Parmesan Broth
Making parmesan brodo – the Italian word for broth – is so simple, it seems like a kind of alchemy. A few left-over cheese rinds, a pot of water, and an hour later you have a savory, nutty broth.
My friend Karena first tasted parmesan brodo at A16 in San Francisco, poured over fish. Blown away by the simplicity, she quickly boiled a batch, and now keeps it on hand like chicken stock.
After a holiday season of excessive eating and spending, a simple soup seemed like a welcome departure from my recent baking binge. It was also in line with my 2010 goal to expand both my cooking and photography – doing both for the sake of learning instead of having a predictably pretty outcome.
And it’s good I was in it for the adventure, because halfway through the boiling process the broth looks anything but appetizing. It after it’s skimmed that you taste a spoonful of the bubbling liquid, and start laughing at the genius of whatever eccentric Italian decided to boil his leftover cheese rinds.
I ate the soup for days, stirring in gnocchi and whatever produce I had on hand – sun-dried tomatoes, basil, broccoli rabe, and fava beans. And there’s no need to grate any cheese over the top, because all that richness is infused right into the broth.
Italian Parmesan Brodo
Instructions courtesy of Karena
Collect parmesan rinds as you use blocks of them or ask for them from your cheese provider. Whole Foods actually sells cheese rinds by themselves if you don’t have a collection of rinds in your refrigerator. They should have roughly 1 cm of cheese left; more than that is fine.
Combine 6 cups of water, as many cheese rinds as you can muster and one bay leaf. Bring to a boil over medium-low heat and stir so that the cheese rinds don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Lower to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1.5 hours or until the broth has a nutty, creamy flavor.
Once it’s been on the heat a little while, you will start to smell it, but it will just look like water and cheese rinds in the bottom. Then you start getting pieces of rind that break off and it doesn’t look all that appetizing. You will feel the urge to skim the cheesy bits that have broken away from the rinds out of the water, but leave them in there and let it boil longer.
A little while later, the water will finally look cloudy and almost like it has oil droplets in it. Discard the cheese and skim the broth, and strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean container or into another pot if using right away.
Keep the brodo warm in a pot on the stove and, meanwhile, boil some salted water for the gnocchi. If the gnocchi is really fresh, you need not boil it, but if it was from the store in a plastic container, you’ll need to loosen it up a little in boiling water for about 90 seconds or until al dente.
When the gnocchi is cooked, spoon some into a pasta bowl, add the blanched vegetables and sundried tomatoes. Pour the brodo over the top of all the ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste. (Remember the brodo will add some saltiness so you may not need much). Serve hot and enjoy!