Giada De Laurentiis Uses A Cheesy Leftover To Elevate Red Sauce

Giada De Laurentiis may cook up a whole array of delicious Italian dishes, but there is one red sauce recipe she always comes back to: her basic pomodoro sauce. It's a simple comfort food staple that, on the surface, looks like any other tomato sauce — yet it's elevated with just a few unusual moves. For one, De Laurentiis uses canned cherry tomatoes in place of your standard whole peeled tomatoes, which gives her sauce a sweeter flavor and thicker texture. The other key ingredient is one that a lot of home cooks probably have sitting around in their fridges right now, waiting to find a purpose: De Laurentiis uses leftover parmesan rinds to infuse her whole sauce with cheesy flavor.

Using a parmesan rind in tomato sauce is the kind of simple, seemingly obvious move that makes you wonder why you never tried it before. Anyone who cooks a lot of Italian dishes is bound to go through a lot of parmesan, and while those rinds are often too tough to grate, they are still full of flavor. So instead of grating a mountain of fresh parmesan on top (although, of course, she still grates some), De Laurentiis adds a full half pound of parm rinds to her sauce and lets them simmer along with other pomodoro staples like basil. Instead of a little boost of cheese flavor at the end, you get a tomato sauce rich with the full taste of parmesan in every bite.

Parmesan rinds are packed with salt and savory tastes that boost red sauce

Parmesan is so much more than just cheese, and that's what makes it such a great addition to tomato sauce. Aged parmesan has tons of depth — not just the salt that makes it a staple Italian ingredient, but also a nuttiness and light sweetness. It's also a big source of umami, the rich, savory taste that brings a big boost to any dish, especially bright, acidic dishes like tomato sauce that need something to balance them out. While adding parmesan in any form will bring these benefits to your red sauce, using rinds helps avoid waste, and rinds are actually even more concentrated in flavor than the lighter part of the cheese, making your sauce incredibly flavorful. As a little added bonus, it can even help thicken your sauce as it simmers.

To make use of your leftover rinds, just keep them in the fridge in an airtight bag or container — or copy Giada De Laurentiis and keep them in the freezer, where they can stay good for years. If the rinds are bigger, try chopping them up into a few smaller chunks to expose more surface area to the sauce. After that, it's as easy as dropping them into any red sauce you want at the start of simmering; even a half hour will make a big difference. Your sauce will come out so delicious that you might start buying parm just for the rinds!