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parmesan question/problem?

wussup hounds,

Whenever I make pasta and add some parmesan (or other dried cheese) at the end it always seems to clump up in a coagulated mess. How do I avoid this problem? take the pasta off heat? mix the parmesan with some pasta water or oil before adding? sprinkle in small amounts? Any tips would be appreciated. thanks

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  1. Absolutely take it off the heat unless you're purposely melting it into the sauce.

    1. Lidia B always "shuts off" the heat before adding the grated cheese.

      1. The cheese should be added after you've tossed the pasta with the sauce in the serving dish. Or even to individual servings, at the table.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          One way to avoid clumping is rather than using grated parmesan, use shaved parmesan. You're ultimately achieving the same result, and cosmetically, the plate even looks a little more appealing (without the clumping).

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Actually, the more recommended practice is to add a portion of the grated cheese to the hot pasta off the heat (the pan if it is not too hot, or in a warmed mixing bowl; NEVER do this on a cold bowl or plate unless you want coagulation, hint, hint...) *before* mixing with the sauce. That way the cheese is absorbed by (because the pasta is still drawing in what it can) and bound to the pasta, instead of sliding off with the sauce. Then mix with sauce and finish with the remainder of the cheese.

            If you add the cheese to a pan that is still very very hot, or to pasta in a cold bowl or plate, you will get nastiness with the cheese. Avoid the extremes.

            1. re: Karl S

              Good tip. I've never seen Italians do that, but Americans typically use three or four times as much sauce.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Well, it's Italian chefs who stated rather categorically that one adds cheese to the pasta in a warmed bowl first. Obviously, this doesn't work for pasta that is to be finished cooking in the sauce in the sauce pan. But some sauces are properly placed at the bottom of the warm bowl, the hot pasta place atop the sauce, then the cheese sprinkled over the hot pasta, then you mix the cheese into the pasta, then you draw the pasta and sauce together, et cet.

                One key problems for Americans mixing and serving pasta is the use of cold or tepid bowls or plates. Renders good what might have been excellent but for that error.

          2. I always add grated parm on top of the pasta, sauced, as a garnish.
            I've started to save the rinds from parm in the freezer. Just toss them in a freezer bag and keep on hand. When I make sauce, I throw one of the rinds into it and it gives a nice parm background note.


            1. Are you using real, freshly grated parm? I use it in all sorts of ways, from serving it at the table to incorporating it into sauces while the sauce is still cooking, and I've never had clumping. But I wonder if you are using that pre-shredded kind, if that would clump.

              1 Reply
              1. re: christy319

                Being italian, I don't allow myself to use pre-shredded.But Is there any difference between shredding and grating the parmesan?

              2. For another Parmesan problem, I bought a wedge a couple months ago, and almost immediately it became rock hard. I have been storing it in the fridge, wrapped in saran wrap. Did I do something wrong? or should I just keep using it even though it takes forever to grate compared to what you see on television where it seems to fly off the grater?

                All help is much appreciated!

                4 Replies
                1. re: beany

                  Try wrapping it in paper then wrap that in saran. Should hold up better. And buy the real stuff, Parmesan-Reggiano. Not worth cutting corners on it if you're using it as a garnish.

                  1. re: beany

                    I've found that wrapping the cheese in a paper towel (I use bounty which is a thick quality paper) and then putting it in a zip lock baggie has extended the cheese's moisture for weeks and weeks.

                    1. re: beany

                      If it's wrapped airtight, it won't get hard.

                      That new kind of non-clingy plastic wrap is problematic for wrapping cheese.

                    2. I agree with the grate it over the plates of the people eating the pasta. Don't try to mix it in with the pasta before serving. Use good Parmesan, too. Doesn't matter if you grate it finely, crudely, or even use a zylss with large holes that kind of shaves it; it shouldn't "clump." Cheap parmesan might clump, as the other people here have pointed out. Try using a microplane by the way, they're amazing.

                      1. You don't say but I assume you're not using grated cheese out of a can or a pre-grated version at all. I would stick to real Italian Parmesan-Reggiano for one thing, the extra cost is definitely worth it. You can get a young one in CA for about $12/lb. A good aged Italian pecorino works just as well too. Doesn't take much to get the flavor.

                        Then as is said here elsewhere, make sure to grate (not shred) it directly over the just-cooked pasta after the sauce has been added and not too much sauce at that. For me it always simply melts as soon as it hits the pasta.

                        1. That is one of my own pet peeves too. The answer is to make sure you only use as high a fat content cheese as possible and wait as long as you can after draining the pasta/adding the sauce before adding the cheese. Give it a chance to lose some of the boiling hot temp. Never use a low fat or "lite" cheese when it has to be heated at all, it will almost certainly do what I call "rubberizing" but I use high quality parmesan and I still have problems unless I wait a few minutes. If I do need to add the cheese for some reason before I'm sure about the temp, I just put it on top and mix it at table.