Ahhh the famous spanakopita. A favorite appetizer, meal, and snack not only in Greece but around the globe. Go into any bakery in Greece and you will find this wonderful pie, made with spinach and feta surrounded by crunchy (and often messy) phyllo.
For us spanakopita is a weekly staple and I also keep a bunch in the freezer for a last minute meal. This recipe here is my mothers. Although spanakopita is pretty much a basic recipe consisting of spinach, herbs and cheese (or no cheese for the vegan –nistisimo version), the types of herbs used, the ratio of cheese to spinach, the phyllo, all make the difference. Depending on the recipe you may end up with a delicious pita or with a bland one.
Secrets of an Authentic Spanakopita Recipe
This is a tried and true recipe and works every time. It is easy but you need to remember some key points shared by both my mom and dad:
- The filling is not supposed to be salty but rather mild and almost sweet. The addition of soft sautéed onions (sometimes leek) and sugar provide that sweetness.
- Do not add garlic. I know you want to, after all spinach and garlic are often cooked together, but again the idea is to have a somewhat sweet filling, garlic is an “intruder” in this particular recipe.
- Be careful with the ratio of filling and phyllo. I often see photos of spankopita that has a real thick layer of filling, but when you are using the thin phyllo you have to make sure it can hold the filling. In addition you want to make sure that every bite has the right amount of filling in relation to the phyllo, not too much and not too little. If you want a thicker filling than you will have to use a thicker phyllo (here is a recipe for that).
- Do not expect pites made with this phyllo to be neat, they are messy. This phyllo is tasty and crunchy but it will break.
Now back to the recipe. So this recipe is actually lighter than the typical spanakopita. There is a just a bit of olive oil in the mix, and you can adjust how much feta you want to add or you can choose not to add feta.
What to Serve with a Spanakopita
Vegetable pites are such a great way to eat well. Spanakopita is a complete vegetarian meal combining vegetables, starch, dairy and good fats. You really do not need anything else. Vegetables cooked with herbs wrapped in the thin phyllo provide 1-2 servings of vegetables and about 1/2 to 1 serving starch. It can easily be consumed as a meal or as a snack and in Greece we often have them for breakfast. But here are some serving suggestions:
- As a side, it is a great accompaniment to meat or fish.
- For a buffet, serve the spanakopita cut in squares on a large platter or you can make spanakopita triangles
- If serving as a main, I often accompany it with a small tomato salad, some olives and a bit of cheese. But as noted above, I often serve it as is especially for lunch.
*Here in Greece we have plenty of ready to bake spanakopites that you can find in the freezer of the super market. Unfortunately, nowadays many of them use palm oil in the place of olive oil which defeats the purpose of having a healthy pie. I’d rather make it myself. And this pita is so easy, especially if you are using frozen spinach as I did here.
Authentic Greek Spinach and Feta Pie - Spanakopita
- 1 pound frozen spinach thawed
- 1 onion finely chopped or 3-4 spring onions chopped only white parts
- 2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for brushing the phyllo
- 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped dill
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint (or 2 tbs dry)
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 10-12 ounces crumbled and grated feta
- 3 eggs
- 12 phyllo sheets
- Preheat oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 Celsius)
- Heat a medium pan with one tablespoon olive oil.
- Sauté the onions until soft.
- Add the spinach (make sure you have squeezed out the water).
- Sauté spinach with onion for a few minutes.
- Add the herbs, nutmeg and sugar and sauté for 2-3 minutes more. Set aside and let it cool.
- Grate half of the feta and crumble the rest.
- In a small bowl beat the egg and add the feta.
- Add the egg mixture to the spinach and add the other tablespoon of olive oil. Mix so that all the ingredients are blended.
- Brush a pan that is about 10 X 15 inches with olive oil.
- Place a sheet of phyllo in the pan and brush with olive oil. Repeat with 5 more phyllo sheets.
- Spread the spinach mixture evenly.
- Cover with 6 more phyllo sheets brushing each one with olive oil. Cut the phyllo hanging over the pan or roll in.
- Score the top with a knife (do not cut all the way through, just through the top phyllo sheets) for about 10-12 pieces.
- Bake for about 40 minutes until phyllo is golden.
- Remove from oven and let the pita cool. Cut in pieces.
- Enjoy at room temperature or if you want the phyllo crunchy, warm in the oven before serving.
You can also freeze this after baking: let it cool , cut in pieces, wrap and freeze. Reheat in the oven.
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Photos by Elena Paravantes © All Rights Reserved