Friday, April 2, 2010

Cleo Coyle's Italian Easter Pie Palmiers

Every year at Pasqua, my late Aunt Mary would make her Easter Pie. This rustic pie was amazing to me not because it was filled with dozens of ingredients, but because it was so satisfying yet so simple. She called it a "pizza," but Americans would probably recognize it as closer to a white calzone.

My aunt would fill her rustic Easter pie with ricotta; diced ham; fresh parsley (always fresh!); strong, grated Italian cheese; and raw eggs for binding. 

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She'd mix up a delicious, slightly sweet dough using just her hands on a big bread board. Then she'd roll our the dough, mound in the filling, fold over the dough, seal it, and bake it. After it was baked and chilled (yes, chilled!), we would cut thin slices and eat it at all hours -- for breakfast, lunch, snacks, as an appetizer before dinner, or a savory dessert after.

Italian Easter Pies are a famous tradition, but the recipe can differ from house to house. In our neighborhood that was quite literal. The family next door made a much more elaborate pie with sausage, whole boiled eggs, and a bread-like yeast crust. Other families make theirs in a pie tin with spinach as an ingredient.

My Aunt Mary Capaccio
I greatly miss my Aunt Mary. She came to the USA from Italy (with my mother), lived with us during my childhood, and (in so many ways) was like a second mother to me and my sister. Aunt Mary passed away almost exactly ten years ago, and I still yearn for all the wonderful foods she made for our family. Although I do try to duplicate her recipes, it's the cooking from her heart that I miss the most.

That's why I am dedicating my post to her today with the tastes of her Easter Pie folded into a palmier. The French palmier (a cookie made of sugar-dusted puff pastry) is actually named after a palm leaf, but the shape reminds me more of a heart and that seemed just perfect for my memory of Aunt Mary and her Easter Pie. I can also testify that a bite of this palmier (after it is baked and chilled) will give you an almost identical taste to what my aunt made every Easter.

Buona Pasqua, Aunt Mary!
Happy Easter, everyone!
~ Cleo

Cleo Coyle's
Easter Pie

Makes 10 savory palmiers

Serve as an appetizer or snack; taste can be compared to a quiche.

For a printable, sendable, saveable
(pdf) version of this
recipe, click here


1 cup ricotta cheese (whole milk)
2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 cup flat leaf Italian parsley (fresh!), finely chopped
1 sheet of Pepperidge Farm puff pastry (or 10 x 10-inch homemade)
1 egg, lightly beaten
5 thin slices of good quality ham or prosciutto


Step 1: Mix the filling - In a small bowl, mix the ricotta, grated Romano, and finely chopped fresh parsley. (I just use a good handful, which is about 1/2 cup. When you chop it finely, the volume measure goes down to 1/4 cup.) This filling should be very well mixed--be sure to work in all of the grated cheese and parsley. Set aside in the fridge to keep it cold.

Step 2: Prepare the pastry - Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. The paper is mandatory. Not only will it help prevent your palmiers from scorching on your pan's hot spots, it will help you fold the puff pastry when the time comes. Lay the puff pastry out on the parchment paper. Use your favorite recipe or go with the Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry sheets. If you've never used these before, see the photo below...

Two folded sheets of puff pastry come in one package. Take out one sheet and allow it to thaw about 30 minutes (or you can cheat and microwave it on low for no more than 10 seconds to thaw it slightly). Now unfold the dough. If there are any cracks, wet your finger and press the dough together to mend it. TIP: Handle the dough as little as possible and keep it cold during the assembly process by returning it to the fridge to re-chill.

Step 3: Brush and layer - Lightly beat the egg and brush it over the entire sheet of puff pastry. Then mound the ricotta cheese mixture onto the egg-washed pastry. Use a rubber spatula or the back of a spoon to smooth the filling into an even layer. Now lay your thin slices of ham (or prosciutto) over the top layer of ricotta and fold.

Step 4: Fold - You want to fold this 10 x 10-inch sheet like a letter, into thirds and then a final time so that the two folded layers are stacked. I like to use the parchment paper to lift and fold, which prevents my hands from warming the puff pastry.

Step 5: Chill and slice - Chill the dough for at least 20 minutes and then cut into 1-inch slices. The chilling is necessary for the best result. If the dough is warm, it will begin to give and bend as you cut it, and you're palmiers will not hold their pretty shapes. Set the slices on their sides, leaving room between each to allow space for expansion while baking.

Step 6 - Bake and cool - Bake 15 to 20 minutes in an oven that is well pre-heated to 400 degrees F. The Easter Pie Palmiers are done when the pastry has puffed and turned golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the palmiers to cool a bit before carefully transferring to a rack. Allow these savory goodies to cool to room temperature before eating. If you want to experience the true taste of a traditional Italian Easter Pie, then chill these a bit in the fridge, take them out, and...

For a printable,
sendable, saveable
(pdf) version of 
this recipe, click here

Eat with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
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  1. Wonderful memories and a wonderful recipe. I am definitely going to try this.

  2. Wow, those look so great and not that hard to make. I'll have to give them a try. Always enjoy knowing the background of the recipes and this certainly has a special history and you had a very special aunt.

  3. Those look lovely--and bless frozen puff pastry!

    I inherited no recipes from my family--I never knew one grandmother, and the other never learned to cook (that takes real talent). What the latter could make from scratch was limited to fudge, meatloaf, and gravy. Seriously. I make a mean gravy, a passable meatloaf, and I'm a failure at fudge.

    Apparently her dietary limitations did her no harm, since she lived to be 94.

  4. I inherited my mom's recipes, but her mother didn't cook. This is nostalgia at its best. Thanks! The palmiers looks fabulous!

  5. What a wonderful Easter memory, Cleo. Thank you for sharing your aunt with us today. And thank you for the step-by-step with pictures. I attempted something sort of similar -- a recipe from a home demonstration group -- using Pillsbury crescent rolls. These did not go well for me. I can't wait to try your palmiers with puff pastry. Your photos and clear directions (I never realized I needed to re-chill before cutting!) are going to make all the difference! Thank you so much!


  6. Replies to -

    Juju - Thank you, Juju! My aunt truly was amazing...and inspiring and encouraging. I miss her very much.

    Kristen - I hope you like the recipe. Just remember, the secrets to working with puff pastry are -- Don't over handle and chill it, baby!

    Mason - Thank you so much, and I hope you enjoy your Easter weekend :-)

    ~ Cleo
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  7. Reply to the amazing Sheila Connolly -

    Ha! I'll take 94, especially on a steady diet of fudge, meatloaf, and gravy. Yet more proof that DNA has more impact on longevity than antioxidants? I'm just sayin' (also, I like gravy). :-) Thanks for dropping by the kitchen, Sheila! Looking forward to another guest blog from you in the near future!


  8. Reply to Avery - Aw, thank you. It's nice to know that we're all drawn together by foodie memories from childhood, whoever made the dish. It's also nice to revisit past memories in the kitchen. :-)

    Cheers and have a great weekend!

  9. Cleo-

    Those look amazing. It's mid-morning and now I'm starving. Thanks so much for sharing your lovely memories of your aunt and her recipe!

  10. Replies to...

    Julie - Ha! You are so right. Despite the apparent ease of any recipe, a few simple things can really trip up a cook. When I'm working out recipes, I often get it fairly right the first time, and then I try to duplicate it and discover all these issues. If you do this and don't do that, you get a mess. (I do my best to blather warnings for that reason. If I give a warning, it's because I've made the mistake. Twice.) I hope you have a wonderful Easter, Julie. Wesołych Świąt! (I hope that's Happy Easter in Polish! LOL!)

    Reply to Jenn - thank you, Jenn, have a great Easter with your three boys (2 small, 1 large)!

    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  11. What a wonderful recipe! Thanks so much for sharing it with us, and your wonderful books as well!


    Jessica Beck

  12. Yum! I can't wait to try this recipe. I've never used puff pastry. It looks so good and easy, too.

  13. Cleo, this looks delicious! The photos are good enough to eat. I love that you dedicated your post to your Aunt Mary and that she was such a great influence for you...what a wonderful tribute!


  14. What a lovely tribute to your Aunt Mary.

    ~ Krista

  15. What a great tribute, these look fabulous and Aunt Mary would be so the colors for Easters in this roll as well perfectly done bravo~ Buon Pasqua~

  16. first time here. You have such an interesting blog. I'll have to come back :) These palmiers look delicious. They will be great as an appetizer. Wonderful recipe and great tribute to your aunt. Happy Easter!

  17. Cleo - how fun...the woman at the Polish deli wished us Wesolych Swiat today (very cool that you have the accents on the letters too!). I was momentarily confused when she said it, because I've heard it at Christmas, so I looked it up and it's "Season's Greetings" so appropriate holidays! Thank you, Cleo! And a wonderful holiday to you, too!


  18. What a great recipe! Absolutely mouth watering - I'm hungry!

  19. What a sweet lady she must have been to receive such a great tribute. I have no aunts - strangely both my parents only had brothers!

    A fantastic but simple recipe I have to try soon! Thanks for sharing the recipe and such beautiful memories.

    Happy Easter Cleo! :)

  20. Reply to...

    Jessica Beck - The Donut Shop Lady is in the House! Thank you for dropping by today, Jessica.

    I'm happy to announce to everyone that Jessica (author of GLAZED MURDER - just released by St. Martin's Press) will be filling in for me next Friday. So come on back next week to read a fantastic foodie post by a wonderful new culinary mystery writer!


    More replies to come...

  21. I remember calzones in NYC looking like big "Hot Pockets". They were made from pizza dough, not puff pastry dough. I don't recall any like these. I would have bought one of these right away. If you added a little spinach to this, it would be a balanced meal in itself. Do any pizza places sell these puff pastry ones in NYC?

  22. I know Henderson doesn't sound Italian, but when your mom is Italian, you're Italian. Anyway, the above is frightening like a treat my aunt would make on the holidays. She lived in NYC, which was a 400 mile trip for us, so I only got to enjoy it fresh a couple of times, but it was wonderful. I eventually moved to NYC (half for my career, half to be near my aunt's cooking [she still makes the best potato salad in the galaxy]), but cruel fate moved my aunt to the west coast simply to confound me. Still, all this boils down to the fact that just reading the above was a transportation back to a cherished memory, and for that I thank you.

  23. Replies to –

    @Melissa – Puff pastry! Oh, man I love it. Homemade is amazing, but it takes time and effort. The frozen sheets are great for recipes like this one because the star flavor in the dish is the filling. Thanks for dropping in, Melissa, I hope you’ll come back again soon.

    @Elizabeth and...
    @Krista – Thank you guys! My aunt was indeed amazing and worthy of every word of this post. I only wish she were alive to read it.

    @Claudia (pegasuslegend) – Thank you so much - You really touched me with your words about my aunt being proud. I hope she would be. I also loved your post about your grandmother Victoria’s Easter bread. I know she would be so proud of you with your amazing blog – not only keeping the traditions going but sharing them with the world.

    ~ Cleo

    more replies to come...

  24. Replies to…

    @Biren – Thank you so much for dropping in and leaving such a lovely comment. I hope you’ll come back again soon.

    @Julie – You are so amazing, letting me know my Polish "happy Easter" was OK. Thank you! (I was honestly worried I’d just told you to change the oil in my car or something. I’m glad I got it somewhat right! – now I am yearning for pierogies and polka music - two things that truly make me happy, happy!)


    more replies to come...

  25. Replies to...

    @Cooking Rookie - thank you CR - thank u for dropping by. Hey, I loved your wreath bread!

    @Denise - the amazing Denise F. is in the House!! Thank you for the sweet, sweet words all the way from Singapore. Have a wonderful, peaceful, amazingly feastful Easter, D :)


  26. Reply to…

    @Pasta Fazool – You are right on the money about the calzones with the pizza dough. IMHO - Most of the time, the dough in the American pizza place calzone is too darn thick and heavy and takes away from the filling. My aunt’s dough was not a laminated dough (i.e. layered like puff pastry), but it was much thinner and lighter dough than a pizza pie dough, and that’s why I thought of the riff on a palmier. This is close to mimicking what she did in a larger, more rustic version. I like your idea of adding spinach, and it is indeed one of the very common options for traditional Italian Easter pies. As for your question – Do any pizza places sell these puff pastry versions? Not that I know of – but if anyone out there has any suggestions for places to get anything like this, just post them in the comment section. Thank you for your great comment and question, PF. Have a wonderful Easter weekend!

    @CJ Henderson - The Brooklyn Knight is in the House! Love your foodie memories, CJ. So sorry to hear that your aunt has moved so far away. I would have loved meeting her. I hope you and your family enjoy this beautiful Easter weekend in NYC.

    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  27. These look so simple to make but so delicious too :)

  28. Reply to Amanda - Thank you for the nice comment. Hey, I checked out your blog and see that you are on spring break. Enjoy it!

    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  29. These look so delicious! Thanks for the add on fodbuzz I am following your lovely blog!