Recipes // Appetizers // Parmesan Cheese Rolls

Parmesan Cheese Rolls


By Chef Leticia Moreinos Schwartz

Makes 35

I’ll never forget the first time I ate ostrich. It was at Esplanada Grill, located in the gleaming corner of Rua Barão da Torre and Anibal de Mendonca. The meat was gamey, soft, and juicy, sealing my taste for wild meats that day. Esplanada Grill doesn’t look like your typical churrascaria—because it’s not. Esplanada Grill built its reputation out of a fine à la carte menu serving exquisite Brazilian beef as well as exotic meats such as javali (wild boar), pirarucu (a fish from the Amazon River), and the above-mentioned ostrich. But one of my favorite treats at Esplanada is the pão de queijo. It is so cheesy that I sometimes find it impossible to save room to appreciate some of the best meat in Rio.

Much has been made of Brazilians’ fascination with pão de queijo. From Belém do Pará in the north of the country to Rio Grande do Sul in the south, and anywhere in between, pão de queijo has the power to ignite conversations and direct dinner choices. This dish is the result of yucca alchemy—a golf ball-size little roll that is chewy, cheesy, and steamy, almost succulent— and it’s quite difficult to eat just one.


  • 3 1/2 cups sour manioc starch
  • (polvilho azedo)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1½ cups finely grated
  • Parmesan
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne
  • pepper
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Place the manioc starch in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Set aside.
  2. Combine the water, milk, oil, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. In one stroke, immediately pour the hot liquid mixture into the manioc starch and turn the machine to low speed.
  3. Mix until the dough is smooth and the starch is incorporated, about 2 minutes.
  4. Pause the machine and add the eggs. Continue to mix at low speed until the dough develops structure and turns pale yellow, about 5 minutes.
  5. The dough will be sticky.
  6. Add the cheese and mix until well incorporated.
  7. Season with nutmeg, the cayenne, and a few twists of pepper.
  8. Transfer the dough to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  9. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
  10. Wet your hands with olive oil or flour your hands with manioc starch.
  11. Use an ice cream scooper to make 1-inch balls; roll the balls into shape with your hands.
  12. Place the balls on the prepared baking sheets, leaving 1½ to 2 inches between each. (At this point you can store them in a ziptop
  13. bag and freeze them for up to 3 months.)
  14. Place the cheese rolls in the oven and bake, rotating the sheets halfway through baking time, until they puff up and are lightly golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes.
  15. Remove the rolls from the oven and place them in a basket lined with a cloth or dishtowel.
  16. Serve immediately while they are still at their warmest and chewiest.
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