We have a few Greek staples in my family, and one of them is spanikopita (spinach pie). My mom never buys pre-made spanikopita, and she absolutely refused to let us select it for a wedding reception hors d’oeuvre. The authentic, homemade kind is simply the best! Spanikopita is a part of all the big holiday meals in my family’s household; thus, it was an essential component of our recent Thanksgiving feast!
Maybe this is going back a little on what I just wrote, but obviously making your own phyllo dough would add even more authenticity to this recipe. I’ll try that out at some point, but my family has a special place in our hearts for those thin phyllo sheets that you can find in your local grocery store’s freezer section. My siblings and I grew up painting melted butter on the phyllo, while striving hard to keep the delicate sheets intact. Those memories would be hard to replace!
The spanikopita recipe we use is from the cookbook Filo files for filophiles, by Billie Venturatos Andersson. My mom likes this cookbook in particular because it goes into detail about different Greek cooking techniques, as you’ll see below.
Spinach Pie / Spanikopita
Yield: 20 servings
3 pounds fresh spinach or 2 (16 ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach (thawed)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
2 cups scallions, finely chopped
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped (or 1 teaspoon dillweed)
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 pound feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 pound dry cottage cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup clarified butter, melted
1 pound filo pastry
If using fresh spinach, remove and discard coarse stems of spinach. Wash leaves thoroughly. Place leaves in lightly salted water and let stand 10 minutes. Rinse off salt and squeeze out excess water. Cut up spinach.
Whether fresh or frozen, spinach must be dry before proceeding.
Heat 1/2 cup of olive oil and saute onions and scallions until soft. Add spinach, parsley, and dill and stir until spinach has wilted. Remove from heat and transfer to mixing bowl.
Combine eggs and cheeses and mix well. Add the cheese and egg mixture to the cooled spinach and blend thoroughly.
Proceed to Technique D for Pan Preparation.
Technique D – Pan Preparation
- Grease a shallow 9 x 13-inch baking pan.
- Center one sheet filo baking pastry in the pan.
- Brush the sheet with either a butter or oil-butter mixture as directed in recipe.
- Place another filo sheet upon the first and grease.
- Continue stacking and buttering 8 more sheets.
- Spoon in the filling and spread evenly.
- Fold overhanging sides and ends of filo over the filling to enclose it.
- Brush with butter or oil-butter mixture as instructed in recipe.
- Top with filo sheets remaining in the package. Brush with butter or oil-butter mixture as you stack.
- Seal in the filling by tucking overhanging edges around the inside of the baking pan.
- Using the point of a sharp knife score the surface with 20 rectangles.
- Bake in preheated 325 F oven until golden, about 45 to 60 minutes.
- Let stand 10 minutes.
- Cut through scored lines when ready to serve.
And if you want even MORE info, here are some notes from my mother:
- I think I follow the recipe pretty much, although I don’t think I’ve ever used fresh parsley or dill and sometimes I put a little mint in.
- Dry cottage cheese is the small curd cottage cheese. And it looks like an awful lot of olive oil. I don’t ever use that much. I also don’t always use onions and green onions. Sometimes I just use one or the other or forget the onions altogether.
- You need a lot more butter. I think it usually takes 3 sticks and I don’t clarify it. Usually the salt sinks the the bottom anyway.
- If you use frozen spinach, you need to defrost it and then wrap it in paper towels and squeeze out the liquid. With fresh spinach, you need to drain out the excess water.
- One important thing to do in the pan preparation is once you have finished buttering the sheets, you cover the pan with foil and put it in the fridge for about 30 min. Then you score it and bake it. I usually leave the foil on the pan until the last 15 min or so because it browns pretty fast.