When I have arepas, it’s usually with my Venezulan friends and they tell me stories about their lives in Venezuela and the memories they share making arepas. It’s one of those nostalgic foods that really sparks passion for them and reminds them of home. They go into detail about the best and worst combinations to fill them with or tips and tricks for making them perfect. These arepas are filled with mozzarella cheese, toasted in butter and then baked until golden.
So a little bit about the Arepa…Arepas are corn cakes made with precooked corn flour known as masarepa. The origin of the arepa has always been a debate amongst Venezuelans and Colombians, and while I don’t know the answer, this recipe is based on the Venezuelan arepa which is made with masarepa, salt and warm water. Colombian arepas incorporate warm milk into the dough instead of water. They say it’s the secret to their soft arepas. Arepas are loved and enjoyed in both countries and each home has their own way, preferred fillings, and traditions.
Here is some arepa-making-wisdom my friends have passed on to me:
The ratio for masarepa to water is roughly one to one. Start with equal parts - if the dough still seems too dry add 1-2 tablespoons of water at a time. There should be no dry patches or clumps of flour.
After thoroughly combining the water and masarepa, cover the dough with a clean towel and let it rest for 5-10 minutes. This allows the dough to fully hydrate.
When shaping the arepas, lightly wet your hands with water to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands. The dough should roll into a smooth ball with no cracks or seams. If the dough is cracking you may need to incorporate a little bit more water. If the cracks are minimal, the residual water on your hands will be enough to smooth it over when shaping.
- 2 cups precooked white corn meal
- 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons warm water
- 1 1/ 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/ 2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Preheat the oven to 350F
In a large bowl whisk together cornmeal and salt, add warm water and mix by hand until fully combined and there are no dry lumps. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 5 minutes.
Divide the dough into 10 equal portions. Lightly wet your hands to prevent dough from sticking.
Take a ball of dough and press two fingers into the center to create a small indentation. Fill it with about a tablespoon of cheese, then form the dough over to cover it and reroll it again into a ball. Flatten into a disk and set aside.
Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a nonstick skillet or cast iron pan. Add arepas and cook until golden brown on each side, about 3-4 minutes.
Place seared arepas onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes.
Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly and serve warm.