The making of parmesan is a strict affair, from the cows and their fodder to the whey starter and rennet, to the size of the wheel and the length of the ageing. The members of the Parmigiano Reggiano consortium, which unites all producers, believe this all adds up to making their cheese the most popular in the world. They’re probably right, too. Fortunately, when it’s time to eat, things are much more open-ended. The block of parmesan you have in your fridge can make an appearance in a host of dishes you may not have thought of (and never, ever throw away the rind, either).
Vegetable broth with parmesan dumplings and charred lemon salsa (pictured above)
Leftover parmesan rinds work wonders at flavouring this broth, so if you have any in the fridge, use them here instead of actual cheese. The dumplings are a little finicky, but they’re special and worth the effort. Make sure the soup is simmering before turning the heat to low, and lower in your dumplings gently. Have the lid ready, so you can cover the pan immediately and let them cook gently in the broth.
Prep 35 min
Cook 50 min
For the broth
1 large celeriac (750g), peeled and cut into 2½cm cubes (500g net weight)
½ head swede (350g), peeled and cut into 2½cm cubes (300g net weight)
60ml olive oil
Salt and black pepper
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
50g pitted Nocellara olives (or other green olives), roughly chopped
50g piece parmesan (or parmesan rind – see recipe intro), cut into three chunks
1 tbsp lemon juice
20g parsley, stalks reserved, leaves finely chopped
20g basil, stalks reserved, leaves finely chopped
For the dumplings
160g parmesan, finely grated
2 tsp cornflour
2 large eggs
For the charred lemon salsa
½ lemon, cut into 4 x ½cm-thick slices and deseeded
40g pitted Nocellara olives (or other green olives), finely chopped
2 small garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
75ml olive oil
Heat the oven to 240C (220C fan)/465F/gas 9. For the broth, put the celeriac and swede in a large oven tray with two tablespoons of oil, half a teaspoon of salt and plenty of pepper, and toss to coat. Roast for 25 minutes, stirring once halfway, until soft and nicely browned, then set aside.
Meanwhile, put a large saucepan for which you have a lid on a medium-high heat. Add the remaining two tablespoons of oil, the onion and three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt, and fry gently, stirring every now and then, for seven minutes, until soft and golden. Add the garlic and olives, fry for two minutes more, until fragrant and soft, then add the parmesan and fry for 30 seconds. Add the lemon juice, herb stalks, 1.8 litres water and a teaspoon and a quarter of salt, bring up to a simmer, then turn down the heat to medium and leave to cook for 20 minutes. Strain the broth, return it to the pan and discard the solids.
For the dumplings, mix the parmesan, cornflour and egg with a good grind of pepper and refrigerate for 10 minutes. With lightly oiled hands, shape into 12 balls weighing roughly 20g each, squeeze tightly so they’re compact, then refrigerate again for another 20 minutes.
For the salsa, put a small, nonstick frying pan on a high heat and, once hot, dry-fry the lemon slices for two minutes on each side, until nicely charred. Finely chop, put in a small bowl with the olives, garlic, oil, herb leaves, an eighth of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, and stir to combine.
Put the roast vegetables in the strained broth and bring it to a simmer on a medium-high heat. Turn the heat to low, then carefully lower in the dumplings, cover the pan and leave to cook gently for three to four minutes, until the dumplings are hot all the way through.
Divide the soup and dumplings between four bowls, top each with a tablespoonful of salsa and serve with the rest of the salsa alongside.
Za’atar cacio e pepe
I know I’ve messed with an Italian classic here, but the za’atar does get along very well with the pepper and cheese. The technique for getting cacio e pepe right isn’t complicated, but it’s essential that you follow it to a T to ensure a smooth, rich sauce. It’s also essential to use a wide pan and little water to cook the pasta in, because that ensures there’s enough starch to emulsify the sauce. Grate the cheeses as finely as possible (if you have one, a Microplane grater is ideal here), so they melt happily into the sauce.
Prep 10 min
Cook 35 min
400g dried bucatini (or other long pasta – adjust the cooking time, if necessary)
50g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
10g za’atar, plus 1½ tsp extra to serve
2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
130g parmesan, very finely grated
30g pecorino romano, very finely grated
2½ tbsp olive oil
2 tsp picked marjoram leaves (optional)
In a wide pan on a medium-high heat, bring 1.3 litres of water to a boil, then season with three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt. Add the bucatini and cook for nine minutes, until al dente, stirring every now and then so the pasta doesn’t stick together or to the bottom of the pan, and to ensure it remains fully submerged. Drain the pasta, and reserve all the cooking water – you should have about 520ml left; if not, top up with a little hot water.
In a large, high-sided, nonstick saute pan on a high heat, melt the butter until bubbling, then add the za’atar and pepper, and cook, stirring, for a minute, until fragrant. Add the reserved cooking water, bring to a rapid boil and cook for five minutes, until it reduces a little and turns silky. Stir the pasta vigorously into the sauce, then add the parmesan in two batches, continuing to stir vigorously as you go, and waiting until the first half has melted in before adding the next. Once all the parmesan has melted, add the pecorino, continuing to stir until it has also melted and the sauce is smooth and silky. Transfer to a lipped platter, finish with the oil, marjoram (if using), the remaining za’atar and a small pinch of salt, and serve at once.
Brussels sprout and parmesan salad with lemon dressing
The combination of raw and roast sprouts gives this salad both depth and freshness. Serve it with a Sunday roast or holiday feast. Get ahead, if you like, by roasting the sprouts and making the dressing a few hours in advance.
Prep 25 min
Cook 35 min
Serves 4 as a side
700g small brussels sprouts, trimmed, 500g left whole and the rest thinly shaved by hand or on a mandoline
120ml olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
Salt and black pepper
60ml lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1½ tbsp wholegrain mustard
2 anchovy fillets, drained and roughly chopped
60g parmesan, 20g finely grated, and the rest cut into thin shards
120g kale, stems discarded and leaves thinly shredded (100g net weight)
1 small red onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
20g basil leaves
70g blanched hazelnuts, well-toasted and very roughly chopped
Heat the oven to 240C (220C fan)/465F/gas 9. In a medium bowl, toss the whole sprouts with two tablespoons of oil, half a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper. Transfer to an oven tray lined with baking paper, and roast for 18 minutes, stirring once halfway, until well browned and cooked through, then leave to cool.
Meanwhile, make the dressing. Put the lemon juice, garlic, mustard, anchovies, grated parmesan, remaining 90ml oil, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper in the small bowl of a food processor and blitz smooth.
Put the kale and shaved raw sprouts in a large bowl with the dressing, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, and toss, massaging the leaves a little as you do so. Leave to soften and wilt slightly for about 10 minutes, then add the onion, basil, hazelnuts, parmesan shards and roast sprouts, and toss together.
Pile on to a large platter and serve at room temperature.