23 September 2009

Apple Pie - from Nonna

I don't remember how old I was, but I do remember a feeling of winning the lottery when Nonna handed me this card with her apple pie recipe lovingly handwritten on the front. I held in my hands the recipe for the best apple pie I ever ate. But, little did I know, merely having the recipe wasn't enough, executing the recipe properly was a whole different story.

Apple pie is not easy to make, at least for me it isn't. I remember Nonna's apple pies always turned out perfectly; tender, flaky crusts with the fork holes on top, apples at just the right consistency, and perfect little tapioca pearls scattered throughout. Delicious. Eating the pie was the essence of perfection. It was what instilled in me my love of pies.

Whenever I tried to make it, however, I always would do something wrong. I remember the first time I tried it, I overworked the dough, and it was neither tender nor flaky.  Along the way, I mastered the pie crust, but the tapioca caused me fits. I could never get them to cook all the way. The pearls would still be a little hard, and it took away from the enjoyment of the pie considerably. Tapioca pearls haunted my dreams. The flavor of Nonna's pie was there, but I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong with that darned tapioca.

A few months ago, my mom gave me a box of old recipes she found at Nonna's house. It was like a treasure chest of culinary gold. She told me of some of the recipes from her childhood, and they were all there for the most part. Other recipes from my childhood I recognized, too. I was so delighted to go through those recipes, anxiously rummaging through the box of goodies. I was like a kid on Halloween going through the candy bag at the end of a night of tireless trick-or-treating. As I was going through the box, I saw an old handwritten apple pie recipe. I looked at the recipe to see if there was anything different from the recipe Nonna wrote for me. The recipe was exactly the same, except for one ingredient. Instead of two tablespoons of small tapioca, this recipe called for 2 tablespoons of minute tapioca.

Minute tapioca! Maybe that was the answer! I resolved myself to wait until apples were in season to try this new ingredient. I literally thought about it all summer. Last week, I went to The Sunspot's farmers market to pick up some apples. On Thursday evening, I rushed home from work and got to work on the pie. It wasn't until Friday that we cut into the pie. The suspense was almost too much for me to handle as I made the first cut. As I served the first piece, I looked and the tapioca was completely cooked through. Success! The pie was very good! It still wasn't as perfect as the one's Nonna used to make, but it was definitely a step in the right direction. A couple more tries and I should have it down pat. Looks like I'll be going to the apple orchard this weekend. Hooray for pie!!


  1. Luke! The secret solved! This is a family treasured recipe and I thank you so much for keeping it alive. This means a lot to me.

  2. You say it still wasn't perfect, just much better. What have you done since to make it come out perfectly?

  3. Thanks for commenting Anonymous. Since this post, I have had great success with this pie recipe and it comes out perfectly. My issue was adding too many apples (more than the recipe called for) and there wasn't enough tapioca to absorb the juices, which resulted in a runny pie. I now just add 6 medium apples, and the filling just comes to the top of the pie plate.



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