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Pope Francis’s Empanadas

2 minutes

Summary

For Pope Francis, his favorite treat is the humble empanada, the popular, hearty portable meal for workers brought to South America by Spanish settlers.

Pope Francis is the first South American Pope to be elected in the whole history of our Holy Mother Church. He hails from Argentina, which has a cuisine heavily centered around beef.

Argentina is known worldwide for having the most delicious beef, credited to the diet of the free-ranging cows mainly fed on pampas grass.

In several interviews, the Holy Father has mentioned that his favorite food is empanadas. Empanadas are made from a flour-based dough, fashioned in a hand pie shape with a meat filling. The humble empanada originated in Spain in the early 1500s and was brought to South America by Spanish settlers, where it became popular as a hearty and portable meal for workers.

Pope Francis generally eats a very light diet these days, baked chicken, vegetables, and salad, but his favorite treat remains the empanada.

Here is a recipe, (adapted from Bon Appetít September 2021), so you too, can enjoy the Holy Father’s favorite dish.

  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 lb. ground beef (20% fat)
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 small or 1 large red bell peppers, seeded, and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • 2 Tbsp. paprika
  • 1 Tbsp. dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1½ cups low-sodium chicken stock  or broth
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • 3 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 3 packages (12 each) Puff Pastry Dough*
  • ½ cup pitted green olives, rinsed well, cut in half lengthwise
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Preparation

  • Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large pot over high. Cook beef, breaking up with a spoon, leave it a little pink until browned but not completely cooked through. Transfer to a medium bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving as much fat in the pan as possible.
  • Reduce heat to medium and cook onion, bell peppers, and the remaining 1 Tbsp. oil, stirring, until tender but not browned, 6–8 minutes; season with salt and black pepper. Add cumin, paprika, oregano, and cayenne and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add chicken stock, tomato paste, reserved beef, and any accumulated juices to the pot. Stir in sugar, 4 tsp. salt, and ¼ tsp. black pepper.
  • Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring and scraping up any brown bits, until most of the liquid is evaporated, 15–20 minutes; taste and season with salt and black pepper, if needed. Stir in raisins.
  • Transfer to a medium bowl, cover, and chill for at least 3 hours and up to three days before baking.
  • Preheat oven to 375°. Let dough sit at room temperature for 15 minutes to soften. Remove dough from the package. Keep the sheets you aren’t working with covered in a damp dishtowel. Using a small plate as a guide, cut four circles from the dough. Place 2 Tbsp. filling in the center of each round. Top with 2 olive halves and brush water around half of the outer edge of each round. Fold round over filling and pinch edges with a fork to seal and crimp edges.
  • Transfer empanada to a parchment-lined sheet tray about an inch apart. Cover with a damp dishtowel until ready for the oven. Repeat with the remaining rounds (you’ll get about
  • 12 empanadas on each tray).
  • Bake empanadas, rotating tray halfway through, until golden brown and slightly darker around the edges, 25–35 minutes.
  • Let stand for five minutes before serving.
  • *You can eliminate the cutting into rounds step if you find empanada pastry dough.
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About Mary Ellen Barrett

Mother of seven children and two in heaven, Mary is wife to David and a lifelong New Yorker. She has homeschooled her children for eleven years using Seton and an enormous amount of books. She is a columnist for The Long Island Catholic and blogs here . Meet Mary Ellen.
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