|Colombian pandebono is on the left; Italian version is in the right|
I’ve had a recipe for pandebono bookmarked ever since discovering these cheesy, airy puffs of heaven at Nuela. My mom and I went for the much buzzed-about duck paella, but it was the bread course that stole the show. So much so, that a to-go box holding 8 of them followed me home. Not only were these Colombian cheese breads naturally gluten free, but they were served to everyone in the restaurant. So if they’re non-Celiac approved, you know they must be something special.
This 5 ingredient fix (sorry Food Network, I had to), came together just quick enough on a rainy night when all I wanted for dinner were carbs. Nuela served them with honey-doused mascarpone cheese, which provided a slightly sweet start to the meal. For a more savory approach, I dipped mine in warmed marinara sauce. This combination made for some serious comfort food.
After making the traditional pandebono, I tried swapping out the queso fresco for mozzarella and ricotta. The Italian version that resulted was definitely more moist, which was evident from the Play-Dough-like uncooked dough. I can imagine rolling out the dough would be fun for kids (and 22 year old working adults).
Tip: Before grating a soft cheese like queso fresco or mozzarella, throw it in the freezer for a few minutes.
[Original recipe from Epicurious]
1 cup masarepa (precooked cornmeal; I used white but Epicurious calls for yellow)
½ cup tapioca flour
2 teaspoons sugar
Salt (optional, see recipe)
Additional Ingredients – Colombian version
2 cups (about 8 oz.) grated queso fresco (aka farmer’s cheese)
Additional Ingredients – Italian version
1 cup (about 4 oz.) freshly grated mozzarella cheese
½ cup part-skim ricotta cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix together the masarepa flour, the tapioca flour and the sugar. Add the eggs and the cheese (queso fresco for the Colombian version; mozzarella and ricotta for Italian) and begin to combine with a wooden spoon.
Once the mixture starts to come together, use your hands to knead the dough. The goal here is to work the wet and dry ingredients together so one, consistent ball of dough is formed. If your mixture seems too crumbly, add water one teaspoon at a time. (I ended up adding three tsp water for the Colombian, and none for the Italian.) Once the dough has come together, taste it and add salt as necessary. (I passed on the extra salt for the Colombian but added ¼ tsp for the Italian.)
Prepare 1 large or 2 small baking sheets by spraying with cooking spray or lining with parchment paper. Using your hands, form pieces of dough into balls a little larger than golf-balls. Don’t worry about making them completely smooth; any imperfections will puff out during baking. Place them on the baking sheet, and top the Italian version with grated Parmesan cheese. Bake for 20 minutes until golden in color.
Best served warm. Reheat leftovers in the microwave or oven.