Each empanada at Nelly's is inscribed with an identification code.

Each empanada at Nelly's is inscribed with an identification code. Credit: Newsday/Erica Marcus

“Destiny” is how Nelly Mourelle describes the process by which Nelly’s Artisan Argentinian Empanadas landed in West Babylon.

During the pandemic, Mourelle, a guidance counselor, started baking empanadas and selling them at the Deep Roots farmers market in Glen Cove. “At first it was just a side hustle,” she said. But she was so busy by 2021, she gave up her full-time school job and started looking for a larger kitchen than the one she was renting in Amityville.

Then her husband saw an ad for a commercial space in the brand-new Winters Center for Autism, a nonprofit launched by the Winters Family Foundation. (The foundation’s founders, the late Joe Winters and his wife, Michele, were longtime advocates of vocational training for adults with autism.)

Every tenant in the new facility — the bakery, a barber shop, etc. — would train, employ and place adults with autism. “My two passions are cooking and helping people,” she said. “As a guidance counselor, I had years of experience working with developmental disabilities. It’s like this opportunity was created specifically for me.”

Because it’s located in an industrial park, the bakery doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic, though the park’s workers are gradually discovering the month-old venue. But the location is perfect for Mourelle since it affords her a large kitchen in which to bake for her farmers markets and to develop wholesale clients.

Growing up in the Dominican Republic, Mourelle studied cooking and had mastered the fried Dominican empanada. But her husband, Jorge Porta, grew up in Argentina eating that country’s baked empanadas and it was the baked variety that Mourelle decided to perfect.

“I worked for a long time with dough,” she said, “since the original recipe was made with beef tallow and I wanted a vegan dough." Her fillings range from the most traditional (“beef classico” filled with ground beef, onions, hard-boiled eggs, raisins and olives) to new-wave empanadas such as the BEC (filled with bacon, egg and cheese) or the Caprese (tomatoes, mozzarella and basil). Of her 18 varieties, about eight are on offer at any one time and there will always be a beef, a chicken, a vegetarian and a spicy.

Because her kitchen will also function as a classroom, Mourelle is having to write down her filling recipes for the first time. The dough has also needed tweaking since she now has a machine that folds and crimps the empanadas. “I sorta miss doing them by hand,” she admitted, but the machine does something her hands could not: It stamps every empanada with an identification code — HC = ham and cheese, CT = carnitas taco — so that customers can tell them apart.

The 2,300 square-foot shop has plenty of room for dining tables so you can enjoy your empanada hot from the oven, along with sandwiches, salads, sides and pastries. Empanadas are $5 apiece, two for $8.50, six for $25 and a dozen for $42. You can also order them frozen (in advance). Mourelle is also at the Glen Cove farmers market on Saturdays and, starting this month, at the Three Village farmers market in Setauket on Saturdays.

Nelly’s Artisan Argentinian Empanadas is at 92 Mahan St., West Babylon; 631-643-2436, empanadas-nellys.com

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