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Genovese Savory Pastries

Genovese Savory Pastries

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Makes 10 to 12 little pies.
By Dennis W. Viau; modified from Southern Italian Cooking by Jo Bettoja.

Here’s the thing with these little savory pastries: They are excellent for when you want to offer guests something to eat without preparing a full dinner. I make these when friends visit and we want to just sit and talk over coffee. They can be made in advance and popped in the oven when needed. They’re ready to serve in about 15 minutes.

You’ll need about a dozen 3-inch tart tins or oven-safe shallow bowls, such as bowls for dipping sauces.

Ingredients:

For the béchamel sauce:
1½ tablespoons butter (regular, unsalted, or clarified is okay)
1½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
1½ cups (355ml) milk
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (or from a spice bottle)
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
Salt to taste
For the Filling:
1 tablespoon butter
4 ounces (115g) peas, frozen or fresh (try to avoid canned, as the flavor isn’t wonderful)
3 ounces (85g) prosciutto; preferably in one piece to cube rather than thin slices)
¼ cup (1 oz./28g) freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
5 ounces (140g) mozzarella cheese; coarsely shredded or cut into small cubes
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
For the Pastry:
3 cups sifted (14 oz./385g) all-purpose flour
2 large eggs; at room temperature
1 tablespoon water
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (200g) butter; at room temperature
1 egg; beaten with 2 teaspoons water and ¼ teaspoon salt to make an egg wash

Directions:

Make a roux by melting the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and adding the flour. Whisk to blend and keep stirring until the flour cooks to a golden color, about 1½ to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Add the milk, ground pepper, and nutmeg to the butter-flour mixture, a little at a time, whisking to blend, until all the milk is incorporated. Return the pan to medium-low heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. To prevent a skin from forming on the surface, you can place a piece of plastic wrap on top, carefully pressing it against the surface of the sauce.

To start the filling, melt the butter in a saucepan and add the peas. Cover and cook about 6 minutes over low heat. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

To make the pastry, place the flour in a large bowl. In a small bowl beat the egg, water, and salt until blended and add the room temperature butter. Whisk briskly to break the butter into small beads. Add to the flour and blend. The mixture won’t come completely together into a dough yet. Place the flour mixture on the counter and knead with your hands to bring the ingredients together into a smooth dough. This takes less than a minute. Wrap in plastic and set aside. If your kitchen is particularly warm, set the dough in the refrigerator to prevent it becoming oily.

Combine the cooled béchamel mixture with the peas, prosciutto, Parmesan (or Romano), and mozzarella cheese. Stir to blend. Taste for salt and pepper.

Roll a small piece of dough to form a circle large enough to fit into a tart tin with the dough hanging over the edges a little. Fill the shell with the filling mixture. Shape another piece of dough to make a top crust. Cut with vents.

Beat the remaining egg with the water and salt to make an egg wash. Using your finger, spread a little egg wash around the edges of the bottom shell and then press the vented top crust into place, pressing the edges well to seal. You can use a fork to add a decorative edge.

Repeat this process until all the little pies are assembled.

Using a pastry brush, coat the top of the pastries with egg wash.

Arrange the pies on a cookie sheet and place in an oven heated to 425°F (220°C). Bake 15 minutes, until the pastry is lightly browned. Additional browning can be done under the broiler, if desired. Serve warm.