A perfect little appetizer for the holiday season, you can make these all vegetarian by increasing the amount of chopped mushrooms and eliminating the Italian sausage. Easy to throw together, these empanadas can be made in advance and even frozen if you wish. They’re good plain, but outstanding accompanied by the luscious Romesco Sauce — makes all the difference. Using store-bought dough, the yield is 20-22 empanadas.
1 ¼ C chopped mushrooms—your choice of white/button, cremini, shiitake, oyster
½ small onion, chopped
2 ounces bulk Italian sausage (= ½ sausage without the casing), mild or hot
1 T olive oil
¼ C dry sherry or Marsala
1 handful chopped spinach
1 T fresh thyme, chopped
1 t fresh squeezed lemon juice
½ C feta, plain or with herbs
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1 pkg (15-ounce) store-bought pie dough
1 egg, beaten—for glazing the empanadas
1/3 C toasted whole hazelnuts or almonds
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained
2 T fresh parsley
1 T red wine vinegar
Sea salt and red pepper flakes, to taste
Sauté the chopped mushrooms, onion and sausage in olive oil in a large non-stick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Cook until onion is soft and mushrooms begin to brown, breaking up the sausage into small pieces as well. Deglaze with sherry/Marsala, simmer until nearly evaporated, then stir in the thyme, spinach, lemon juice and a bit of salt. Cover with a lid and turn off the heat, letting the spinach wilt. Let mixture cool completely before adding the feta cheese and stuffing the empanadas. (This stuffing can be refrigerated at this point for 3-4 days.
Unroll 1 sheet of the pie dough onto a work surface. Using a 3-inch cutter, cut out approximately 10 circles from each sheet. Place 1-2 teaspoons of the filling on each round, fold in half and pinch to seal. Arrange the empanadas on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, then crimp each one with a fork. (It’s important not to overfill the or they’ll be difficult to seal and won’t stay closed during baking.) Brush the egg wash on the empanadas, bake at 350°F until golden, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool before serving.
For the Romesco sauce: pulse the nuts and garlic in a food processor until very fine but not oily. Add the remaining ingredients and process until pureed.