« Kasha/buckwheat groats (Recipe: kasha varnishkes) | Main | New Mexico chili powder (Recipe: Carmen's black bean soup) »

Pie crust (Recipe: empanaditas)


When I was born, my parents took inventory.

Ten fingers. Ten toes. Eyes, ears, nose.


Wait a second. PIE?

Right away, my parents sensed that something was missing -- the PIE gene, the one that governs the ability to bake fruit pies, cream pies, sweet or savory lattice-covered perfectly-crimped-edges pies.

After extensive testing, the diagnosis was confirmed; indeed, I lacked the pie gene. Oh, I could make a tasty enough filling, but when it came to marrying filling to pastry, I couldn't quite pull it together. I'd always forget an ingredient, or my pie would look great, but the bottom disintegrated. Or the filling escaped from a hole I didn't create.

For years I suffered the indignity of never being asked to bring dessert to a party or potluck. And when I entertained, I would pooh-pooh pie, telling my guests that I just wasn't in the mood to bake, or that I really preferred ice cream or a fruit salad.

And then, in the refrigerator aisle of my local market, right next to Paul Newman's lemonade, I found help for my affliction. Pie crust, ready to unroll and bake!

Could it be that simple? Yes, it could.

Refrigerated pie crust does have a down side; it contains saturated fat that comes from partially hydrogenated lard, as well as both yellow and red food dyes, to which some people are allergic.

On the up side, it's easy to use, delicious, flaky, and freezeable either before or after baking, for up to two months.

From quiche to crostata, cherry tarts to chicken pot pie to chocolate fudge pie, refrigerated pie crust makes it easy to turn the everyday into something elegant.  


Great for entertaining; make these ahead of time and freeze, uncooked, in layers separated by wax paper. No need to defrost before baking. [Note: you will have half of the picadillo filling left over. Freeze it for future use, or make a quick lunch of quesadillas with picadillo and cheese filling tomorrow.] Makes 20-24.


1 package Pillsbury ready-made pie dough (2 crusts)
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
1 large green bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb extra lean ground beef
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup sliced, stuffed green olives
1/4 cup raisins
1 Tbsp capers
2 Tbsp white vinegar
1/4 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 egg (for egg wash prior to baking)


Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Sauté onion and green pepper until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Add the beef and break it up well. Stir in the remaining ingredients, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes or until a good, thick consistency.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Roll out dough to 1/8-inch thick, and cut with a 3-inch cookie cutter or empty can. Place a teaspoon of filling in the center of each round. Paint the edges of the pastry with water, and fold the round in half. Seal with the tines of a fork. Place on a nonstick baking sheet (or Silpat, or parchment paper, on a regular baking sheet). Brush with egg wash (one egg beaten with one Tbsp water). Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Sweet potato pie
Not-just-for-Thanksgiving pumpkin pie
Chocolate outrageous pie
Apple tart for non-bakers
Old fashioned apple pie

Photo from our archives.


Mfhlogosmall_2 Menu for Hope. Three days left -- and already we've raised more than $33,000 for the UN World Food Program!

For each $10 donation you can earn one virtual raffle ticket good for hundreds of food-related prizes including autographed cookbooks, cooking classes, gourmet foods, restaurant gift certificates, and our own terrific prize, offered with Rhode Island Market Tours:

Item #UE12. Two tickets to SHOPPING FEDERAL HILL: AN INSIDER'S FOOD TOUR, a three-hour walking tour of Providence, Rhode Island's, most famous Italian food neighborhood. Taste your way through "The Hill" as Cindy Salvato, an executive pastry chef and cooking instructor, takes you behind the scenes and into market and bakery kitchens, sampling bread, cheese, antipasto and vino along the way. Good for any scheduled tour before December 31, 2008 (tours run on Saturdays and some weekdays, throughout the year); tickets are transferable but not refundable. This $90 value can be yours for $10 (hint, hint: the more tickets you buy, the more chances you have to win).

This walking tour is great fun -- and what better way to learn what should be in your own perfect pantry?! Cindy tells you which is the best pasta, which store has the best Parmigiano-Reggiano, where to buy the best pannetone, who has the prosciutto to die for. It's real insider stuff!

See the list of fabulous prizes here, then buy your raffle tickets here.


DidlogoblogBake. Decorate. Donate. It's a simple idea. Bake some cookies. Invite friends, family, co-workers, or neighbors to help decorate. Donate your cookies to a local agency serving people in need, and "give back" while having fun. 

Planning a Drop In & Decorate event? Please let me know (lydia AT ninecooks DOT com) so we can share the fun.

To learn more about Drop In & Decorate Cookies for Donation, including how to host your own party, visit www.ninecooks.com; then stop in at A Veggie Venture, 37 Days, Culinary Types, Nikas Culinaria, Homesick Texan, Food Blogga, The Inadvertent Gardener, Jaden's Steamy Kitchen, La Mia Cucina, One Hot Stove, The Cooking Adventures of Chef Paz, French Kitchen in America, Veronica's Test Kitchen, Kelly the Culinarian, shawnkenney.com, Thyme for Cooking: The Blog, Chew on That, Nook & Pantry, Cookthink, Tea & Cookies, Mele Cotte, Cream Puffs in Venice, startcooking.com, Shazam in the Kitchen, The Family Quilt, The Daily Tiffin, Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy, The Budget Bambino, Baking and Books, What's for Lunch, Honey?, The Pink Hobart and Fun and Food.

Thank you, Slashfood and BlogHer. Thank you, Chow.com and Goodyblog and Woman's Day.

"Thank you and all your elves, helpers, cookers, decorators, delivery people…EVERYONE!!!!!!!!!!! who took part in your 6th Annual Drop In and Decorate!! The cookies are awesome, as usual, I tried to look at all the different ones (I only ate one!!) You didn’t bring any broken ones so I HAD too!  So many different ones this year; so creative! I really, really appreciate all the kind thoughts and special efforts everyone goes to for this holiday “cookie treat” to be such a wonderful success!" Nancy Johnston, Director of the Foster (RI) Food Pantry

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


I really enjoyed the whole pie gene story - I can really relate.

Lydia, I guess I am missing that PIE gene too - because the pre-prepared pie crusts have been my life savior often enough of times. I believe it's the filling that makes 95% of the pie anyway and I love the sound of yours! Even though I am one of those awesome daring bakers I still do go for the pie crust in the refrigerator aisle often and I am not ashamed to say it either. LOL!

I definitely don´t have the pie gene, but make up for it with the Thermomix, which is a very good artificial DNA, I find. It´s the oven that´s tricky for me.

I'm lucky to have a firmly instilled pie gene but it takes a vacation once in while so I use these too. There are two things you can do to actually improve the taste, considerably. The first is to roll the crust a bit thinner; place it in the pie pan, cut off the excess, then tuck in an edge. It will still handle beautifully but it's just too thick and as a side benefit, you toss some of those calories and some of the hydrogenated fat, too. For sweet pies, I like to sprinkle the rolling surface and the crust itself with a tablespoon or so of sugar before rolling. Not homemade but not bad!!

This is a great product to put together a pie in a pinch. I'm quite taken with the recipe for empanaditas - I had never thought of using the ready-made pie crust for appetizers, but what a great idea! My pie gene comes and goes ...

I am also missing the pie gene and usually just rely on those who did receive it. I'll have to try some of Alanna's tips.

Will Pillsbury wonders never cease? I generally don't use frozen crusts for precisely the reasons you mentioned - lard, food coloring - but I do confess that in a pinch they are a godsend. And how cool than you made empanaditas with the dough!

Lydia, when I first tried to make my mom's recipe for pie crust I failed miserably too. So I started using store-bought ones for a while to fill my apple pies. Then one day I was all set to make several pies and had all my filling ingredients ready and realized I forgot to buy the pie crusts! And timing always is the case when everyone is also making pie so I had the hubby score the supermarkets to look for them till the dead of the night. Since then I have resolved to at least learn to make pie crust which I did finally. But I wouldn't mind having the Pillsbury man in my refrigerator/freezer for insurance just in case my home made pie crust went horribly wrong. Oh yeah...tell me about those holes that I didn't make...I can so identify...

That surely is something practical and useful, Lydia!

I used to get something called Wondra Flour -- General Mills? which made pie-crust-for-the-
gene-deficient...now I don't even try. Just make the filling and if you have to, something on top, or a crumb crust. Who eats crust anyway?

Lydia, what a great recipe. And now I have to thank to all these ready-made products. With my super busy schedule, this helps a tone when I throw out a party...

Sabina, glad to know I'm not the only one without the pie gene!

Meeta, when a Daring Baker tells me it's okay to use refrigerated pie crust, I feel much better. I remember when a friend who is a pastry chef told me she makes gingerbread by adding spices to a cake mix -- it was so liberating.

Lobstersquad, I'm giggling....

Alanna, thanks so much for your advice and suggestions. You most definitely do have the pie gene.

TW, better to have a fleeting pie gene than no pie gene at all. I think. I do like using this crust with savory fillings -- even plain cheese empanadas, with a bit of fresh chile pepper or hot sauce tossed in, are delicious.

Kathy, maybe we need a support group....

Ari, I must confess that I didn't even read the ingredients on the package when I first started to use these crusts. I was just so happy that there was a delicious packaged crust available. Now, of course, I'm more aware of the ingredients, but I do still like the flavor and texture.

Veron, the crust you posted about is absolutely beautiful -- you should be proud of it! And the unplanned holes... it's like water finding its own path, I never really know where the filling is going to travel. I just know that, because I lack the pie gene, the filling will go somewhere that I hadn't intended.

Patricia, it is definitely a life saver!

Susan, I am a crust eater. I don't know why, but I love it, the soggier the better. But for someone like me who lacks the pie gene, you are right, crumb toppings are a much better idea.

Anh, ready-made pie crust definitely speeds up your cooking. I'm always looking for more savory recipes; if you've posted any, please let us know the link.

Yeah, it took me a few years before the pie gene showed up. I'm not a big pie eater so it took awhile to come about.

Hi Lydia, thanks for popping by! :) heh heh, if PIE were a gene, then I must be a mutant! I hope I don't sound like I'm bragging but by that, I mean I positively am more adept at pies than my mom! :) For starters, she refuses to prick holes in the base of the crust before pouring in the filling, so you can imagine, heh heh.. ;-)

Peabody, do you mean that I shouldn't give up hope for my own pie gene to make an appearance???!

Shilpa, I have to say that despite the absence of the pie gene, I too am more adept at pies than my mother. In fact, nobody in my family bakes pies, which means that my lack of pie gene is a dominant trait!

Making pies were my first love. I've always enjoyed playing with dough. But, I must admit, I too have a box of Pillsbury Pie Crust in the freezer. It is just so easy...and no mess!!!! Your recipe for empanaditas sounds great. btw - I'm getting ready to make your rice pudding recipe for the holiday...wish me luck. The rice pudding gene is missing with me.

Thank you, Lydia, for explaining to me why I cannot make pies! Now I know that it's genetic. Which actually makes sense, as my mother didn't make them, either. She relied on her sister to do that.

I love the empanaditas idea - thanks!

Diane, I'm always relieved to learn that even those with the pie gene use store-bought dough from time to time. I love making little savories out of it. And as for the rice pudding gene? Maybe you'll discover that you have it after all! Happy holidays!!

Toni, welcome to my gene pool. I think you can stuff the empanaditas (or make larger empanadas) with almost anything -- sometimes I do them with cheese alone -- or those wonderful New Mexico chili dishes you make. Happy holidays, Toni!

I missing that one, too. I have never made a pie crust. My mother could whip up a pie from scratch in 10 minutes with one hand tied...

Katie, I'm not sure my mother could even buy a pie crust in 10 minutes. My whole family lacks the pie gene!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.