Saturday, December 10, 2005


[Update, March 6, 2016:  I've written a new post, with new recipe, about the Utica Pusty.  You will find it HERE.]

Our good friend and VTB-VIP, Culinary Fool, has been blogging lately about her grandmother’s Christmas cookie recipes. That got me thinking about my own Nonnie’s holiday specialty—pusties!

I’m not sure if pusties (also known as “pustichioti”) are an Italian or Italo-American invention...although I suspect the latter. And I’m not sure if they’re available in other parts of the US or only in the Utica, NY area...although again, I suspect the latter.

Pusties are little, baked pastry tarts filled with chocolate or vanilla custard, and capped with another layer of pastry dough that's brushed with egg yolk. They look like a frilly meat pasty...but, of course, taste nothing like one.

In a rare moment of common sense, I had the foresight to ask Nonnie for her recipe several years ago. And it’s a good thing, because I don't think that anyone else in the family had previously thought to do so.

And so, my friends...I include Nonnie's recipe below. I like sharing family recipes, because it lessens the chance that they will be lost forever. And now that Nonnie’s pusty recipe is safely aloft in cyberspace, I can stop worrying that the original handwritten version will meet an untimely death at the hands of my finger-painting daughter.


To Make the Dough:

1.5 cups Crisco Shortening or Lard
5 cups Flour
1.25 cups Sugar
2 Eggs
0.5 cup Cold Water
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
0.25 cup Honey

Step 1: Blend Crisco, sugar, flour and baking powder. Blend like you would a pie crust.

Step 2: Add water, honey and eggs. Mix and refrigerate.

Step 3: Add a little extra flour if dough is too soft. Make little “meatballs” and spread in the pusty pans. Caution: do not spread too thick, because the baking powder will cause the dough will rise a little.

Step 4: Fill the pusty pan, cover with a cap and brush the top with egg yolk.

Step 5: Bake at 375 degrees F for 15-20 minutes.

* * * * * * *

To make Vanilla Filling:

3 Eggs
0.75 cup Sugar
0.5 cup Flour
2 cups Milk
1 teaspoon Vanilla (or some brandy)
Dab of Butter

Step 1: Cook over low heat until thickened.

Step 2: After it cools, add vanilla (or brandy) and a dab of butter.

* * * * * * *

To make Chocolate Filling:

0.5 cup Flour
1 cup Sugar
0.25 cup Cocoa
1 cup milk
1 cup Cold Water

Step 1: Mix together flour, sugar and cocoa.

Step 2: Add milk and cold water.

Step 3: Cook over low heat until thickened.


At 1:29 AM, Blogger Lisa said...

Hey Sal,

thanks so much for sharing Nonnie's recipe. I'll be sure & try it some time this week. I'm into baking right now with all the snow and Christmas-y things going on and I love trying new things. This will have a definite place of honor in my recipe folder. Lisa

At 7:21 AM, Anonymous Kick Shoe said...

These look good, Sal. You might have inspired me to share my special fudge recipe. Hope all is warm and well over your way. Yoda!!

At 10:57 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Lisa: Really? You'll make them this week? I'll tell Nonnie when I talk to her next week. I'm sure that the last thing she's expecting is to hear that a someone in Wisconsin is making her recipe. I hope you like them. And heed this warning: get a helper. It's not a tough recipe, but it takes a long time if you are flying solo. I made a batch by myself in the early 1990's and vowed to never do it again. it does, however, go much more quickly with one helper.

Kick Shoe Cathy: I just checked out your fudge recipe. It not only looks easy to make, but I love the fact that it requires a CUP of butter. Really...when making desserts, let's not f**k around.


At 9:26 PM, Blogger christina said...

Sal, can these also be made in muffin cups? Last time I looked I didn't have any pusty pans. Did your Nonnie make them at Christmas time?

At 9:29 PM, Blogger christina said...

Duh, I just read your post again with my squinty old eyes and saw that yes, they ARE for Christmas. And no second look they seem quite small. Mini muffin pans maybe?

At 9:41 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Hey Christina:

No, they're not necessarily a Christmas thing. Nonnie always made them for New Years (because that was her designated holiday...Christmas was my other Grandmother's) and for other special occasions. Since pusties required a bit of work, a certain amount of "motivation" (like a holiday) was needed.

But pusties are, in fact, a year 'round thing. They are always for sale at such Utica establishments as Cafe Caruso or Florentine Pastry Shop.

As for the tins, I've always used pusty tins (which Nonnie bought for me in Utica)...but I'm sure you can improvise. The may not look the same, but who cares about that?

For your knowledge, my pusty tins are made of a thin metal. Each tin makes an individual pusty. The measurements of my tins are the following: 5 cm diameter across the bottom; 7.5 cm diameter across the top; and 2.5 cm deep.

So...if your muffic cups are more-or-less of these dimensions, I suppose that they should work.

More questions? I'm here to spread the gospel 24x7.


At 10:27 PM, Blogger Lisa said...

thanks for the heads-up on the helper idea. I'll con...I mean I'll ask my son to help his dear ol' Madre for a hand.

At 6:55 AM, Anonymous MtnWmn said...

Hi Sal,

Lisa passed on your site and recipe, do you mind if I take a copy? I am looking for new recipes this year and have a few simple old cookie recipes, but would love you to stop by and share.

Have a great Christmas.

At 10:37 AM, Blogger christina said...

Hallelujah! I was just digging around in my bottomless pit of cooking utensils and found that I DO actually have some of these little tins. I think they're supposed to be French brioche tins, but what the heck.

More questions:

- With 5 cups of flour, I'm assuming that this recipe makes a whole boat load? Could the recipe be successfully cut in half?

- is it either chocolate OR vanilla filling for one recipe of pastry or is there pastry enough for both fillings?

- how many of these have you eaten at one time without passing out from the custardy goodness?

At 11:07 AM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

MTMWN: Sure...feel free to take a copy of the recipe and post it on your blog. The more people who make pusties, the better the chances for world peace...and all that stuff.

Christina: You actually have pusty-like tins? You must have a very happy family, with a well-stocked kitchen like that. As for your questions, let's see. It's been three years since I made pusties, but it's starting to come back to me now.

As I recall...(and all of my answers from this point forward shall be subject to this proviso):

- The recipe as stated makes a pretty healthy-sized batch of pusties. But they are a soft pastry (i.e., not flaky or crispy), so they keep pretty well in a Tupperware container in the refrigerator or (what I tend to do) in a cold garage.

- I've always made both the chocolate and vanilla fillings, and the combined quantities of fillings were the correct amount for the batch.

- I've never tried cutting the recipe in half, but I would assume that it would still work.

- I've been known to eat 5 or 6 pusties at a sitting. It's certainly not because these are a "light" dessert; but rather, because within my petite frame lies the heart of Henry VIII.

- You didn't ask this question, but...the one time I made pusties in Spain, I couldn't find cocoa powder. So I used a bar of baking chocolate and melted it down as a substitute for the powder. The chocolate filling turned out even better than the powder version. It was "fudgier." Unfortunately, I don't remember exactly how I did it (i.e., can't remember what type of chocolate I used...or what brand...or if I tinkered with any of the other ingredients in the filling). are probably a much more experienced baker than I am, so I'm sure you'll adapt properly if you want to venture outside the cocoa powder zone.

- Nonnie always puts a little "button" of dough on top of her vanilla pusties. She does this for ID purposes...and also to keep chocolate-seeking kids from taking a bite of vanilla and putting the remainder of the pusty back into the Tupperware.

More Q's?

At 9:15 PM, Blogger Lisa said...

so many questions for such a small dessert. Just got done with my 1st batch of pusties...yummy. I have something written on you on my site...Lisa

At 2:14 AM, Anonymous Tony said...


I'm a former NY'er from Rome NY and have visited both Cafe Caruso and Florentine on several occasions. My best friend owns the Franklin Hotel in Rome which you have probably heard of.. He knows Carmen very well... My question to you... Where can I purchase pusty tins ? ? I can't seem to find them anywhere as I live in Charlotte NC now... Thanks and love the receipe, my sister has made them and they are AWESOME !!!!

At 3:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much. I have been searching for a recipe for ages. It is apparently a well guarded secret, I was starting to think that I needed a secret handshake. My Nani has been sick for a long time and does not recall how to make them and she never wrote a recipe in her life. My other Nani never liked sweets (imagine an Italian Nani who does not like sweets) so she never made them. I live in Rome and until a while ago I worked right down the street from the Florentine, Caruso's and Cafe Canoli. I miss being minutes away from a pustie when the mood strikes. My family misses me coming home with a box of them.

Just a side note. The Florentine also does fruit filled mini pusties on the weekends. I think that once I master the recipe I will give it a try. Lemon, Raspberry and Blueberry. Will let you know how it goes.

To answer the last post. You can buy the tins at Fliehans - I know I spelled that wrong. It is on Bleeker Street in Utica. There is two stores with the same name in Utica, owned by two different people. I only found the tins at the one on Bleeker St and they were very inexpensive. As a matter of fact, I see things I like on William Sonoma and go get them there for a fraction of the cost. Great Store.

At 5:58 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Tony and Anonymous:

Thank you for your messages. This is exactly the reason that I post these recipes in the public domain. So I'll never lose them, and so others can find them.

I was going to suggest the same thing to Tony. Find a friend in Utica to pick up the tins. That's where mine came from (a Christmas gift from Nonnie many years ago), although I've seen similar (although more shallow) tins in cooking stores around the world. In a pinch, just do what my friend Lisa did--make pusty "calzones" (no tin needed...and a lot quicker, although not authentic).

I'll be sure to tell Nonnie that her recipe is spreading throughout the world. And yes...please report back on your other fillings.


At 3:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I am originally from Utica and am Italian, and my Grandmother still lives in Utica and has been making pusties for years. I love them so much! I was just in Utica visiting her and bought some of the pusty tins at NJ Flihan & Company - (315)732-4746 - 703 Bleecker St, Utica, NY. They charge approximately $1.00 for each tin. That is expensive. My Grandmother said that an Aunt of mine bought some in Florida for $0.50 each. That's much better.

Since I really love my Grandmother's recipe and it's been a family tradition for every holiday, I would never give out her recipe. I'd like to keep it a secret only for our family, although I do think that it's great that you have shared your recipe. My Grandmother also puts the little button on top of her lemon ones, which she calls a "nipple." That's so cute! She only makes the chocolate and lemon ones.

At 5:45 AM, Anonymous Kim Wylie said...

I have rarely heard of others calling them pusties, many saying "Oh, you mean PASTIES??" My mother is from Utica, NY, and your entry about these delicious custard-filled treats being from that tiny part of the world solidifies my belief that my mother isn't entirely crazy and that they ARE, in fact, PUSTIES.

The recipe you provide is almost identical to hers. I wonder if Nonnie and my grandmother were friends...ever hear of someone by the last name "Monroe" from up there? :)

At 5:52 AM, Anonymous Kim Wylie said...

Oh, and in response to Christina:

I have successfully made pusties in large muffin tins. The dough is difficult to make thin enough to work in small muffin tins, though, with enough room for that yummy custard filling.

Oh...and it's VERY difficult to eat more than one at a time. They are extremely sweet and rich. I once ate two within one hour and was sorry for it. ;)

Hot, BLACK coffee goes very well with them, FYI! Personal opinion.

At 4:05 PM, Anonymous Kathy Wells said...

I'm Kim Wylie's mother. She directed me to your site, Sal. Wonder if I knew you in Utica. I graduated from Proctor High in '69. Name was Kathy Monroe. Ring a bell? Long story short, got pusty recipe from the Castello family (my ex). Glad to see pusties are alive and well. Hope to hear from you. I'm in S. Carolina now.
- Kathy
p.s. I remember the vanilla ones had a dimple on top. I ALWAYS make just the chocolate ones. YUM

At 2:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sal - I'm working on a Utica cookbook and came across your recipes. Can I use them in the cookbook?

At 2:57 PM, Blogger Fat Sal said...


Yes, under two conditions:

1. You cite the pertinent recipe as being an "Oliva family" recipe.

2. You inform me when the book is available, so I can secure a copy for my collection.

In addition to the pusty recipe, you'll also find on my blog Oliva family recipes Italian sausage and also for macaroni sauce. Let me know if you have trouble finding them.

Good luck.

At 6:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Sal,

Here with an update. I put in all four of your family recipes (Pusties, macaroni sauce, sausage and bracciole). All are noted with "An Oliva Family Recipe".

The cookbook is looking good so far..about 200 pages. I have more recipes to put in so it'll grow a little bit. I'll let you know when it is available.

All proceeds will go to the utica recipe mission food bank.

If you know of anyone else who'd want to submit their recipes, let me know.

Thanks -

At 6:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

one more..meatballs recipe is also in the cookbook

At 10:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been looking at recipes too long..

all proceeds will go to the
Utica RESCUE Mission Food Bank

At 11:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sal - where you at? The cookbook is DONE!!

At 11:57 PM, Blogger jus2dfyu said...

Sal - where you at?? The cookbook is DONE!!

At 1:09 AM, Blogger Fat Sal said...


I´m here. Can you provide me your email address?


At 1:18 AM, Blogger jus2dfyu said...

also - info on the book is here

At 12:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just want to thank you for taking the time to write down something so special. I have a nana of my own who used to pour her heart into her cooking and I've tried to keep that knowledge going in my own kitchen. I think you've captured how this is more than simply a recipe, but a memory of a labor love, and a beautiful piece of family history that is worth holding on to.

Btw, in San Pedro, California we have a weird habit of pronouncing these pastries as Pawsteechawt. Strange, I know.

Thank you.

Mike from San Pedro

At 6:37 PM, Anonymous Chris said...

For everyone looking for the tins here is a web site for you. I make these every year for Christmas Eve, although my recipe uses light brown sugar for the crust, it is pretty much the same. I live in Rome, N.Y. and have also seen these in lemon and raspberry.

At 11:14 PM, Blogger Diane kanclerz Mannion said...

Sal, Wow what memories your blog has brought up. I'm from Rome, NY and know both Franklins and the bakery Tony talked about. SMALL WORLD. Since I am in Miami, I've been looking for the reacipe and am so glad you share. Diane Kanclerz Mannion

At 4:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

THANK YOU for this recipe! I grew up in the Utica area and miss all the great regional favorites- tomato pie, chicken riggies, half-moons, Utica greens... I've learned to make reasonable substitutes at home but I've been missing a good pustie recipe and you have answered my call!

At 4:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A childhood favorite of mine...I used to have these as a treat on the way home from school at a little bakery known as Lilly's in Park Slope/ Brooklyn, NY. I haven't seen them anywhere else. So happy for your post. Now commences the time travel back to childhood days :) Thanks for sharing! Nora. J'

At 3:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sal by chance do you know anybody with the last name of Testa?

At 4:08 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Yes, I know someone with that last name. Carol.

At 10:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

These sound amazing. So a few strange, follow up questions:

1. All purpose flour or some other type?

2. Do you grease the tins?

3. When you refer to meatball size, how big are we talking? 1tlbs, 3tlbs, etc?


At 2:15 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Dear Anonymous:

To answer your questions...

1. Nonnie uses all purpose flour. Remember, this is a working class baby boom-era pastry. Surely some Food Network hipster chef might argue that it is best make with Himalayan rye flour ground between two pieces of Burmese slate, but we have always used plain old all purpose flour.

2. Yep. With Pam or a schmear of Crisco on a paper towel. Again, baby boomers.

3. Nonnie doesn't speak in measurements. But try a meatball that is abour 1.5 in diameter. If that seems too small, try a little bigger. But I recall that it was smaller than I expected.


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