- Food and Cooking»
- World Cuisines»
- Southern European Cuisine
How to Make Spanakopita (Greek Spinach Pie)
What is Spanakopita?
Spanakopita is a delicious, savory Greek pastry. It is a combination of spinach, feta, and various seasonings in a phyllo pastry crust. It is sometimes also referred to as a “spinach pie.” If you have never worked with phyllo dough before, read on—it may seem a bit daunting at first, but working with phyllo is easier than you may think once you have learned how to do it properly.
How to Work with Phyllo Dough
Phyllo dough is a Greek dough that comes in many paper-thin layers. It is very easy to find in grocery stores: it is generally kept in the freezer section, near the frozen desserts. Phyllo is generally sold in 1 pound boxes. The dough sheets are stacked together and rolled, then packaged in plastic tubes, 2 to a box. For this recipe, only half a pound is needed, so one tube will suffice. The other half of the phyllo dough must be kept in the freezer until you are ready to use it.
To use the phyllo dough, you must first thaw it. This may be done by letting the tube of dough sit at room temperature for about 2 hours, or allowing it to thaw in the refrigerator overnight. However you choose to thaw, be sure not to open the plastic tube until you are ready to use the dough. The dough dries out very easily and could become unworkable if this were to happen.
When the dough is fully thawed and you are ready to use it, carefully open the plastic tube along the seams. This should create a plastic sheet large enough for the unrolled dough to lie flat on. Cover the top of the dough with a piece of wax paper or plastic wrap large enough to cover it in its entirety. Over this covering, place a clean, damp kitchen towel. This will help prevent the dough from drying out.
As you use the dough, you will need to uncover the stack and remove one sheet at a time. Be sure that your hands are very dry, so that the dough does not become soggy and stick together. After removing each sheet of dough, replace the cover. As you layer each sheet of dough into your dish, brush the entire sheet of dough lightly with melted butter.
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 lbs fresh spinach, roughly chopped
- 1 cup ricotta
- 8 oz feta, crumbled
- 1/2 cup parmigiano-romano blend, grated
- 1/4 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1/2 lb phyllo dough
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add minced garlic and sauté for several minutes, until fragrant and golden in color.
- Add spinach to the pot with the garlic—you may have to do this in batches: fill the pot with spinach, stir until it wilts and you have room to add more spinach. Repeat this process until all of the spinach is in the pot. Continue to sauté the spinach until it is all wilted and most of the liquid has evaporated. Set aside and allow the spinach to cool.
- Meanwhile, mix together the ricotta, feta, parmigiano-romano, dill, eggs, salt, nutmeg and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Once thoroughly mixed, fold in the cooled spinach mixture. Set filling aside.
- Brush the bottom of a 9”x13” pan with some of the melted butter. Lay one sheet of phyllo dough on the bottom of the pan, and lightly brush with butter. Continue to layer individual sheets of phyllo, brushing each with melted butter, until just slightly more than half of the dough has been used. This will create a stronger base for the pie. The sheets of dough will be larger than the pan and will come up the sides of the dish somewhat. This is a good thing—you will want to offset your phyllo sheets just a bit in order to build up a higher wall all the way around the dish. This will help to hold in the filling and make your pie sturdier.
- Pour in your filling and smooth out with a spatula so that the filling is spread evenly.
- Place another sheet of phyllo over the filling and lightly brush with butter. Continue until all of the phyllo has been used.
- There will be overhanging phyllo dough all around the edges of the pan. Roll down the sides to encase the pie more firmly (sort of like making a pie crust!). Brush the edges with butter. Pour any remaining butter over the top of the pie.
- Score the top layer of dough into serving sized portions using a small, sharp knife (I like to use a paring knife).
- Bake for 1 hour, until golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before serving.
Spanakopita comes in several different variations. The recipe above represents the pie or casserole version of the dish. Another popular variation is to make the spanakopita into individual triangles. This involves cutting a sheet of phyllo lengthwise, placing some of the filling on one end, and folding the phyllo in a triangular shape around the filling. Another variation involves a coiled shape: the filling is placed onto the phyllo and rolled into a long sausage-like shape, then coiled around itself. Occasionally, you may even find spanakopita folded into other fun and artistic shapes. If you would like to experiment with making your spanakopita in fun shapes, just remember the basic rules for working with phyllo dough, and keep plenty of melted butter on hand for brushing. Have fun with your food!