Tuesday, May 4, 2010

My Mother's Spanakopita Recipe

The spanakopita has made its appearance on Greek diner menus since the 1970s and is almost as famous as the gyro or moussaka. Literally translated, spanakopita means spinach pie, so the ones with spinach and feta are technically spanakotiropita or spinach-cheese pies. I call them both spanakopita, even though it is technically not correct, because there comes a point when the pronunciation becomes too complicated, even for me. These little savory bundles can be filled with just cheese (tiropita), zucchini (kolokithopita), meat (kreatopita), onions (kremithopita) and one of my favorites, sauerkraut (armiopita). In addition to the savory pies, are the sweet ones, like bougatsa (sweet cheese pie) or galaktobouriko (milk pie). The options are limitless.

The recipe below was taught to me by my Mother, who was not Greek, but Finnish-American, and in honor of Mother’s Day I am sharing the recipe with you.

Linnea's Spanakopita

2 Tbs olive oil

1 packet frozen chopped spinach (or 1 lb of fresh spinach)

1 small red onion chopped

½ pound good feta

1 pound ricotta cheese (the 15oz container is fine. In Greece we actually use mizithra cheese, so if you can find that, better yet.)

2 eggs beaten

1-2 Tbs. chopped dill (I use a scissor)

Pinch of nutmeg (I like to grate my own, about 6-8 sweeps on a microplane grater)

Fresh ground black pepper

Stick of butter for brushing the phyllo

Packet of phyllo dough

Pastry brush

1. In a frying pan heat the olive oil and sweat the onions. Add the spinach and cook until the excess water has evaporated. (If using frozen spinach either defrost it first or add a little water to the pan to get it started).

2. In a large mixing bowl add the ricotta and crumble in the feta. Add the black pepper, dill and nutmeg, taste and adjust the seasoning. Because the feta is salty I never add salt, but this is up to you. I really like to taste the nutmeg, but it should be understated. I use a little dill because as it cooks the flavor becomes more pronounced, but feel free to add more. As you make this dish a couple times you will figure out what works for you.

4. Once the flavor is right, beat the eggs and add them to the mixture. Stir to combine.

5. Make sure the spinach has cooled and then add to the egg cheese mixture. If the spinach is still super moist strain it in a paper towel lined colander. (Sometimes I make the mixture the night before to save time. When I make the filling the day before I leave the eggs out until the next day).

6. Butter a large sheet pan and then lay down a single layer of phyllo. Butter the phyllo and then add another layer. Repeat until you have a layer of 10. Add the spinach cheese mixture and spread evenly. Top with another single layer of phyllo and then brush with butter. Repeat until you have a top layer of 10. Cut away any excess phyllo.

7. Bake at 375 for 40 minutes or until the top is brown. Before you bake you can also sprinkle with a little fleur de sel or kosher salt.

Important Note: Most phyllo (unless fresh) is in the freezer section of your market and requires you to defrost it overnight and then leave it out at room temperature for a couple hours before use. Don’t plan on making this recipe tonight unless you happen to have defrosted phyllo on hand.

Here is a link on how to make triangles with the phyllo dough.


If using store bought phyllo just cut it in thirds or half and then follow the instructions. Just remember to keep the phyllo you are not using covered or it will dry out.

My Greek Yia Yia (Grandma) taught me how to make homemade phyllo dough and when I get better at blogging I will post the recipe with a “how to” video. Lets just say it includes a long wooden stick and plenty of elbow grease. Home made phyllo is more rustic, but I cannot say that I prefer one over the other. For dinner parties I make little triangles, and when I am lazy I make one large sheet pan. Both taste just as good, but the triangles are better if you are serving a crowd. The homemade phyllo dough from Poseidon bakery in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC, is worth the trip.

If you are vegan or just fasting for lent, I would be happy to provide you with my dairy/egg free recipe (which my husband says is just as good) upon email request.

Kali Orexi!


Linda said...

One of my favorites, though I rarely attempt because phyllo is so pesky. Can I come over next time you make this:)?

Food Advokat said...

You are always welcome in my home to eat. I find the whole wheat phyllo at Whole Foods less finicky. I sometimes buy two packs just to be safe! I still cannot figure out that URL thing you mentioned. I will get Blogging for Dummies and become and expert. :)

Lawyer Loves Lunch said...

That looks awesome! I would be perfectly content with a piece of the meat version and one of the milk pie. Ok, maybe two pieces of each :)

Kristi Morgan said...

Tried this for dinner tonight, and it was so good! Great recipe! I ended up making two rolls instead of several pies. If I wanted to make the pies for a party, how far in advance can I assemble them before cooking?

Food Advokat said...

Thanks Kristi! I have assembled them the day before and refrigerated them but you have to make sure there is plenty of butter on them or else the phyllo will dry out. You can also freeze them. I prefer them at room temperature because the flavor is more pronounced so you can also make them in the am and reheat (if you want) before guests arrive. Glad you liked the recipe!

Eftychia said...

I make spanakopita often. Your recipe sounds delicious. I think I will give it a try soon. Thanks for sharing!

loader@worldfood.guide said...

Sounds and looks delicious! Your photo and its’ source have been featured on the World Food Guide website: http://worldfood.guide/dish/spanikopita/