These delicious empanadas are filled with sautéed garlic spinach and a creamy cheese sauce. Make small empanadas for appetizers, or make larger ones for lunches on the go. You can use any kind of cheese in the sauce, but the combination of cheddar, Parmesan, and mozzarella works well.
The traditional shape for an empanada is a half moon, with a braided edge (called a repulgue) sealing the crust. Variations in the shape of the empanada can indicate what's inside at bakeries which produce many different flavors of the empanada.
- Make the empanada dough and let it chill for several hours or overnight.
- Preheat oven to 400 F.
- Sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil on low heat until onions are soft and golden, 5-10 minutes.
- Turn the heat up to medium and add the spinach. Cook, stirring, until spinach is wilted and soft, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add the flour to a saucepan. Whisk in the milk gradually until mixture is smooth.
- Add the butter and place over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring constantly until mixture just comes to a boil and thickens.
- Remove from heat and whisk in the eggs. Return to heat and cook, stirring until mixture comes to a boil and thickens. The sauce will be very thick, like a paste.
- Remove from heat and stir in the cheeses. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Chop the cooled spinach and onion mixture. Stir chopped spinach and onions into the cheese sauce.
- Roll out 1/2 of the dough very to 1/4" thick. Cut the dough into 4-5 inch rounds, using a large cookie cutter, bowl, or coffee can. Knead the scraps into a ball and let the dough rest, covered, while you roll out the other half of dough. You should end up with about 20 to 24 rounds of dough, depending on the size.
- Place 1-2 tablespoons of filling in the middle of a dough round. Brush edges of the circle with water. Fold the round in half over the filling, and press down hard along the edges to seal.
- Starting at one end of the pressed-down edge, fold the edge towards the middle and press down. Move your fingers over 1/2 inch and fold the edge into the middle again. Continue around the sealed edge of the empanada, folding the edge over itself, to make a twisted rope effect.
- Bake the empanadas for 10 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 350 F and bake for 10-15 minutes more. The empanadas should be golden brown.
- Store baked empanadas in the refrigerator or freezer and reheat in the microwave. Unbaked empanadas can also be frozen until ready to bake.
To Make Heart-shaped Empanadas: Roll out the empanada dough, and cut 2 hearts with a 4-5 inch cookie cutter. Brush the edges of one heart lightly with water. Place 1-2 tablespoons filling in the center of the heart, then cover with the other heart-shaped piece of dough. Press edges together firmly, then roll edges inward, making a decorative twisted rope effect around the edge of the heart. Brush with egg and bake.