Ah, SPANAKOPITA (spanaki meaning spinach, and pita meaning pie)—the quintessential rustic Greek pie, a spinach and phyllo masterpiece. Until I was 20, the only green vegetable I ate was spinach, and only then because my yiayia filled her spanakopita to the brim with it. Her recipe calls for feta (and lots of it), which is probably why I loved this pie so much. But over the years, my many trips to Greece have changed this cook’s palate. I’ve become more daring with my food choices because Greek tradition has won my heart. Traditional spinach pie uses far less cheese than my yiayia’s (if any at all). This allows the spinach flavor to really shine along with the other greens that are sometimes mixed in for a pleasing earthy bite.
The spanakopita I now make is a cross between my yiayia’s and those I tasted in Greece. My filling emphasizes the spinach and greens (plus green onions and dill) but adds feta and cottage cheese in the style of my yiayia. The filling blends together between layers of phyllo dough which are lightly coated with olive oil. Through experience, I know to go light on the olive oil so the pie doesn’t turn soggy. Spanakopita must come out of the oven light and crispy.
If you’re not so big on vegetables, or have fussy kids (like I was), let spanakopita be the gateway dish into the world of vegetables. I dare you. I now bake and eat a lot of spinach pies, by choice. Not only do I eat a lot of spanakopita now, but I’ll also eat briam (a dish solely made of vegetables), fasolakia (green beans stew), and broccoli (yes the dreaded broccoli!) Vegetable lovers will need no prompting to tuck into a hot piece of spanakopita which makes a great meal, appetizer, or cold leftover the next day. Best of all, it’s as easy as pie to make.
- 1 package of phyllo dough (I use store bought phyllo)*
- 16 oz fresh spinach (or prepackaged and washed baby spinach)
- 6 green onions, finely chopped
- ¼ cup fresh dill, chopped
- 12 oz feta cheese
- 10 oz cottage cheese, cream cheese or ricotta**
- 3 eggs, beaten
- salt and pepper, to taste
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, for oiling the pan and phyllo sheets
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Wash and drain the spinach well. Tear the spinach up with your hands and add to a large bowl. Add the chopped green onions and dill together and sprinkle with pepper. Crumble the feta in the bowl and add the eggs and cottage cheese (or ricotta /cream cheese). Season lightly with salt and pepper. Mix together well with your hands.
- Brush a 9x12 baking pan with olive oil. Lay a sheet of phyllo dough on the bottom, leaving a slight overhang on the sides of the pan. Drizzle (very lightly) with olive oil and repeat until you have used 10 sheets of phyllo dough. You don't need a lot of oil between sheets, you want the phyllo to come out flakey!
- Add the filling mixture to the pan and spread evenly. Bring the sheets that were hanging outside of the pan over the filling.
- Lay 5 sheets of phyllo dough, and oil lightly between layers, repeating the process as done with the bottom layer. Fold the hanging phyllo layers on top of the pie. Drizzle the top of the pie with olive oil.
- Before baking, cut the pie into 12 squares, or how big you want your spanakopita pieces. This makes cutting the pie less messy when it gets out of the oven.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour, until the top is golden brown.
- Allow the pie to cool for 15-20 minutes before serving. You may need to recut the pieces, so just follow along the cuts already made. Enjoy!