Every wedge of real Parmigiano-Reggiano – cut from 80-pound wheels imported from the Emilia-Romagna region of central Italy – should comprise 10 percent rind, says Vincent Maniaci, cheesemonger and owner of The Cheese Iron in Scarborough. The rind, which is stamped repeatedly with the cheese’s name, helps the pieces stay fresh, he explains.

Since Parmigiano sells for between $16.99 and $24.99 per pound in the Portland area, it’s only sensible to use every last bit of it – including the rind. When included in long-simmering pots of soup, beans and tomato and cream sauces, the rind adds depth to the finished dishes.

“It’s not an added flavor,” said Kevin Quiet, chef and owner of Ribollita in Portland. Instead, the rind’s contribution to soup, he says, is richer consistency and earthy undertones. He lets a couple of rinds “hang out” in the restaurant’s namesake soup, a classic and rib-sticking Tuscan potage made from day-old bread and leftover vegetables. He removes the softened, gooey rinds before serving the soup.

I’ve done this for years, too. It’s a nice touch, certainly, but it’s never made or broken my soup. Then I tasted a broth made by Portland food writer, stylist and cooking instructor Vanessa Seder. At the time, she was teaching a class on fall pasta dishes at Stonewall Kitchen Cooking School in York. She paired a 30-minute broth, which has cheese rinds as a main ingredient, with handmade butternut-sage ravioli. I stayed after class and sipped the broth solo from a cup, enjoying the fact that something so satisfying was made on the cheap.

PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO BROTH WITH RAVIOLI

If you can’t spring for the cheese, but still want to make the soup, you can buy the rinds alone at Micucci’s Italian Market ($3) and Whole Foods ($9.99). Adapted from a Vanessa Seder recipe.

Serves 4

3 (3- to 4-inch) square or rectangle pieces of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind

8 cups vegetable broth

6 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 sprigs thyme

4 sprigs parsley

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 pound fresh or frozen ravioli (or tortellini)

¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Combine the rind, broth, garlic, thyme, parsley and oil in a 3-quart pot. Simmer gently, partially covered, for 30 minutes. Remove the rinds and the thyme and parsley sprigs. Discard the herbs, but cool and save the rinds (they can be used once more to flavor another soup). Season the broth to taste with salt and pepper.

Bring the broth to a boil. Stir in the ravioli. When the pasta floats, remove the pot from the heat.

To serve, divide the pasta among four, warmed bowls. Pour about 1½ cups broth into each bowl over the pasta. Sprinkle each with grated cheese. Serve immediately.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, recipe developer and tester, and cooking teacher in Brunswick. She writes about Maine seafood at www.familyfish.net. Contact her at [email protected]