Umami Bomb

75 Vegetarian Recipes That Explode with Flavor

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One of Food52’s Best Cookbooks of Fall 2019

One of Epicurious’ 12 Best Gift Ideas for the Vegetarian in Your Life

“Umami Bomb is your go-to guide for infusing every meal with deliciousness….Thanks to Raquel’s clever ideas and the abundant flavor in her smart, streamlined recipes, this book is set to become a kitchen classic.” –Lindsay Maitland Hunt, author of Healthyish and Help Yourself


Ingeniously built around the use of eight umami-rich ingredients–aged cheese, tomatoes, mushrooms, soy sauce, miso, caramelized onions, smoke, and nutritional yeast–Umami Bomb‘s 75 recipes are bursting with the sublime, savory fifth taste–and they’re vegetarian!


Turn mushrooms into “lardons” for a bold take on Southern black-eyed peas and greens. Caramelize onions to use in the best grilled cheese ever. Add a secret spoonful of soy sauce to the frosting of your next chocolate cake–the soy taste disappears but leaves behind an unexpected depth of flavor. Part of the brilliance of Umami Bomb is how the recipes layer these key ingredients to amplify their effect–like adding miso to an already cheesy cacio e pepe sauce for pasta so savory and delicious you’ll do a double take.

Umami Bomb “addresses the “depth” issue for vegetarian cooks with a love letter to umami… [Pelzel’s] insanely next-level grilled cheese recipe deploys two umami bombs — miso and caramelized onions — and, dare I say, is as satisfyingly decadent as a burger.”  –Jenny Rosenstrach, A Cup of Jo



chapter 1

Parm & Other Aged Cheeses

Nutty, Buttery, Caramel, Salty, Crystalline

As cheese ages, its proteins break down and glutamates and free amino acids—the things that translate to delicious umami—are released. It turns out that Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (aka "Parm") has more glutamates than even soy sauce (see Chapter 2). When you bite into a nugget of nicely aged Parm or Gouda and it crunches and its flavor explodes into a million facets of nutty, sweet, salty, funky, sharp deliciousness? That's actually umami you're tasting.

Both aged Parm and Gouda cheeses (not the buttery yellow Gouda you see in the supermarket deli aisle, but the butterscotch-orange wedge you see at cheese shops) have loads of umami and they enhance foods in so many ways. Add them to pasta for an easy salty-unctuous win. When you pan-fry grated Parm on its own, those clusters of free-roaming aminos (technically called tyrosine crystals) concentrate even more as they cook down and crisp in the skillet, becoming a crumbly, crunchy alternative to croutons. Aged Gouda is an unexpected sweet-savory addition to risotto, while sharp, aged Cheddar adds a salty, delicate, crispy-edged twist to morning waffles (with maple syrup, of course!).

Breakfast Pasta

On lazy weekend mornings (let's not be jokers, here—I'm not making this on weekday mornings!) when I'm too comfy to get out of bed to make breakfast and somehow the time seems to tick away into the late morning in the blink of an eye, I'll make this. It's carby and creamy and warm and delicious—like cacio e pepe with an egg or carbonara without the pancetta, depending how you choose to look at it. Pecorino Romano is a hard Italian grating cheese similar to Parm, but it's made from sheep's milk and has a sharper, more pungent taste.

Serves 4

Umami Bombs:

Kosher salt

1 pound dried spaghetti

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

⅓ cup panko bread crumbs

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 large eggs

¼ cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese

¼ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives or parsley

1 Fill a large pot halfway with water and bring to a boil over high heat (less water makes for starchier pasta water and this will help your sauce cling to the pasta). Add 1 tablespoon of salt and the pasta and cook according to the package directions until the pasta is just shy of al dente (it should taste like it still needs 1 minute longer in the pot—it will be somewhat solid white at the core of a strand). Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta through a fine-mesh sieve. Return the reserved pasta water to the pot.

2 Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the crushed red pepper flakes, black pepper, and bread crumbs, stirring everything into the butter. Add a pinch of salt and cook, stirring often, until the crumbs are golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

3 Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in the skillet for 30 seconds. Crack the eggs into the skillet and cook until the whites are solid but the yolks are still runny (you may have to cook them two at a time depending on the size of your pan).

4 While the eggs cook, finish the pasta: Place the pot with the reserved pasta water over high heat. Once the water starts to bubble, add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil along with the drained pasta. Cook, stirring often to coat the pasta, for 45 seconds. Stir in the cheeses, chives, and 1 teaspoon of salt and divide among four bowls. Sprinkle with the bread crumb mixture, top each serving with an egg, and serve immediately.

Parm-Bone Broth

The heel of a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano is a magnificent source of flavor. When I'm grating Parm and come to the heel (aka the rind), I drop it into a ziplock bag and stash it in the freezer for up to a year (or let's be honest, two!). When I need a vegetarian broth, the "bones" are there waiting for me to turn them into this silky, rich, deeply nurturing broth—delicious on its own or used as the foundation for any soup you can dream up. (If you don't have the Parm heels on hand, you can buy a wedge, cut off the part good for grating, and just use the rind to make the broth.)

Serves 4

Umami Bombs:

2 tablespoons canola or grapeseed oil

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered

1 large shallot, peeled and quartered

2 ribs celery, roughly chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

1 broccoli stalk (with florets), roughly chopped, or 2 generous handfuls cauliflower florets

2 large garlic cloves, peeled

3 sprigs fresh parsley (flat-leaf or curly)

1 Parmigiano-Reggiano "bone" (rind)

2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus extra as needed

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

1 Heat the canola oil in a large soup pot over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the onion and shallot and cook, stirring often, until they are soft (you don't want them to brown; if they start to darken, reduce the heat to medium-low), 3 to 5 minutes.

2 Stir in the celery, carrots, and broccoli and cook until the celery begins to soften, about 8 minutes, then add the garlic. Pour in 12 cups of water and bring to a boil over high heat.

3 Reduce the heat to medium and add the parsley, Parm bone, salt, and pepper. Set a cover on the pot so it is slightly askew to allow a little steam to escape and gently simmer until the carrots easily smash against the side of the pot, 30 to 40 minutes.

4 Turn off the heat, uncover the pot, and set aside until the broth is just warm (or completely cooled to room temperature), 1 to 2 hours. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve and into an airtight container. Taste and add more salt if needed.

Use immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days. Return to a boil for 30 seconds before using.

Stock Tip

When chopping, trimming, and peeling vegetables, save the odds and ends in a ziplock bag in the freezer. Add these scraps to your Parm-Bone Broth, or use them to make a mini batch of vegetable stock whenever you need just a couple of cups or want to make a small portion of soup.

Parm-Bone Minestrone

One of my favorite things to serve for dinner when friends come over is (brace yourself) soup! I love having it simmering when guests arrive—even the idea of soup is so welcoming, like a bear hug. I especially love the old-school comfy vibes that minestrone offers. All you need on the side is a salad and some garlic bread or grilled cheese sandwiches and you're golden. I like when the pasta in the soup gets a little soft, but if that's not your jam, you can cook the pasta separately in boiling water, drain it, and add some to each bowl of soup before serving (if you plan on refrigerating leftovers, cooking the pasta separately is the way to go).

Serves 4 to 6

Umami Bombs:

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped

2 ribs celery, finely chopped

1 large red bell pepper, halved, seeded, and finely chopped

2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus extra as needed

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

6 medium garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

¼ cup finely chopped fresh herbs (such as parsley, rosemary, sage, and/or thyme—alone or in any combination)

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

2 tablespoons double-concentrated tomato paste (or ¼ cup regular tomato paste; see Note)

1 can (28 ounces) chopped tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted), with juices

10 cups Parm-Bone Broth or vegetable broth

1 head escarole, core removed and leaves roughly chopped

1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup dried small pasta (like orzo, elbows, or ditalini)

¼ cup fresh basil leaves, stacked, rolled, and sliced crosswise into thin ribbons, for garnish

Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for garnish (optional)

1 Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, red bell pepper, salt, and black pepper and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes.

2 Stir in the garlic, herbs, and smoked paprika. Once the garlic becomes fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute, stir in the tomato paste. Cook until the paste darkens, 2 to 3 minutes, then add the canned tomatoes. Pour in the Parm-Bone Broth and stir, scraping any browned bits up from the bottom of the pot.

3 Bring the broth to a boil over high heat. Add the escarole, beans, and pasta and cook according to the directions on the pasta package, until the pasta is al dente. Add more salt to taste and add water to thin the soup if needed. Serve hot, sprinkled with fresh basil and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

The soup will keep, in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 5 days.

Note: Double-concentrated tomato paste is available in most grocery stores—usually in easy-squeeze tubes. I find it less wasteful than opening a can.

Shattered Frico Crisps and Green Salad

When Parmigiano-Reggiano is baked or fried, it melts into a thin and shatteringly crisp disk—called a frico—that adds a wonderfully crunchy, nutty, savory texture to salad and is a great (gluten-free!) replacement for croutons or bread crumbs. Here I dress a simple combination of greens and herbs with a Dijon vinaigrette so the pungency of the frico easily shines. You can make the crisps a couple of hours ahead of time (just keep them uncovered on the sheet pan) and sprinkle them over the salad just before serving.

Serves 4

Umami Bombs:

For the frico crisps

¾ cup coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

For the salad

½ small shallot, peeled and very finely chopped

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra as needed

1 large garlic clove, peeled and halved

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Freshly ground black pepper

⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil

8 cups greens (such as kale ribbons, baby spinach, arugula, and/or chopped romaine)

½ cup roughly chopped tender fresh herbs (such as basil, tarragon, chervil, parsley, and/or chives)

1 Make the frico crisps: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.

2 Stir together the cheese, flour, and garlic powder in a medium bowl. Turn the mixture out onto the center of the prepared pan and spread into a uniformly thick 8-inch circle. Bake until evenly browned, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, set aside to cool, and break into small pieces.

3 Make the salad: Combine the shallot, lemon juice, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

4 Rub the inside of a large salad bowl (preferably a wooden one) with the cut side of the garlic clove. Pour the shallot mixture into the bowl and whisk in the mustard and pepper to taste, then slowly whisk in the oil until you have a creamy emulsion. Add the greens and herbs and toss gently to combine. Taste a leaf for salt and add more if needed (but remember that the crisps will add a salty taste). Sprinkle the frico crisps over the salad and serve immediately.

Green Bean and Charred Radicchio Salad

with Lots of Parm

Have you ever charred lettuce? If you haven't, be ready to have your mind blown—seriously, this is a game changer. Not only does heat add a beautifully nuanced and smoky flavor, but the outside leaves get nice and charred while the inside leaves stay cool, fresh, and crisp. I use my broiler to get the job done, but you can use your grill, too, for an extra smoky taste (and your salad will be even better for it). The finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese covers this salad like snow and really makes it so good. For another grilled salad, check out the Caesar riff.

Serves 4

Umami Bombs:

1 pound green beans, ends snapped

2½ teaspoons kosher salt

Juice of ½ lemon

1 tablespoon champagne or rice vinegar

½ teaspoon honey

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 head radicchio, cored and halved lengthwise

½ cup fresh mint leaves, stacked, rolled, and thinly sliced crosswise

1½ cups (4 to 5 ounces) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (preferably grated using a rasp-style grater so it is nice and fluffy)

Freshly ground black pepper

1 Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the green beans and 2 teaspoons of the salt. Boil the beans until they are tender, about 8 minutes. Drain the beans in a colander and run them under cold water to stop the cooking process. Set the green beans aside.

2 Whisk the lemon juice, vinegar, and honey together in a large bowl, and then slowly whisk in 4 tablespoons of the oil until the vinaigrette is creamy. Add the green beans and toss to combine.

3 Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the broiler to high. Place the radicchio on a rimmed sheet pan and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, then season with the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt. Broil the radicchio until the exposed leaves become dark and crisp, about 5 minutes (watch the radicchio closely, as broiler intensities vary).

4 Transfer the radicchio to a cutting board, let cool slightly, and then thinly slice into ribbons. Add it to the green beans and toss to combine. Transfer to a platter and sprinkle with the mint leaves, cheese, and a few cracks of black pepper. Serve immediately.

Three-Cheese Gougères

If you're having a party or are asked to bring something to a party, this is the one. Gougères are little two- or three-bite cheese puffs, based on pâte à choux, an egg and flour paste that is, incidentally, also the base for cream puffs, éclairs, and even beignets (when fried). Usually recipes call for adding Gruyère to the choux base, but I'm adding aged Gouda and Pecorino Romano as well, just for kicks.

Makes 24 to 28 gougères

Umami Bombs:

1¼ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ cup whole milk

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

4 large eggs

1 ounce Gruyère cheese, grated on the medium-hole side of a box grater (⅓ cup)

1 ounce Gouda cheese, grated on the medium-hole side of a box grater (⅓ cup)

1 ounce Pecorino Romano cheese, grated on the medium-hole side of a box grater (⅓ cup)

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.

2 Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

3 Place the milk, ⅔ cup of water, and the butter in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, swirling occasionally to melt the butter, 1 to 2 minutes.

4 Add the flour mixture to the milk mixture and use a wooden spoon to stir to combine. Keep stirring until the ingredients come together to make a smooth dough ball that cleans the side of the pan. Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl if using a hand mixer) fitted with the paddle attachment.

5 Turn the mixer on to medium-low speed and beat the dough for 10 seconds to allow some heat to escape, then start to add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well to incorporate before adding the next egg. With the last egg, add the grated cheeses and black pepper and beat until the dough is smooth and shiny, 2½ to 3 minutes.

6 Use a large spoon to drop dollops the size of ping-pong balls onto the sheet pan, leaving about 1 inch between mounds. Dip the spoon in water and use the rounded side to press down on the center of each mound slightly, just to eliminate any peaks and smooth out the shape.

7 Bake the gougères until they puff and brown slightly, 12 to 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and continue to bake until the puffs are golden on all sides, 20 to 25 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and let cool a few minutes before serving.

The gougères are ideally served warm and within 30 minutes of baking, but you can make them a few hours ahead; store them at room temperature and warm them in a 300°F oven before serving.

Springtime Risotto

with Aged Gouda, Asparagus, and Peas

The season influences what goes into my risotto more than my mood. In the fall it's wild mushrooms, and in the winter it's squash and thyme. In the spring, when I am craving green-green-green, it's asparagus, peas, and chives. The caramely flavor of aged Gouda brings out the sweetness in the asparagus, but of course Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano is tasty, too.

Serves 4

Umami Bombs:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra as needed

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 large garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

1½ cups Arborio rice, rinsed under cold water and drained

1 cup dry white wine

4 cups hot Parm-Bone Broth or vegetable broth

½ pound asparagus, ends trimmed and stems and spears thinly sliced crosswise

1 cup freshly shelled or frozen peas

3 ounces aged Gouda cheese, rind removed, plus extra for serving

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives

1 Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the edges of the onion darken, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and rosemary and cook, stirring often, until the garlic smells fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute.

2 Stir in the rice and cook, stirring often, until the rice begins to turn opaque and smell toasty, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the wine, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring often, until the wine is nearly absorbed (when you drag a wooden spoon through the middle of the rice, the pan will still look wet but most of the liquid will have been absorbed), 2 to 4 minutes.


On Sale
Sep 3, 2019
Page Count
256 pages