Here is my version of the savoury Greek pie known as Spanakopita. Have you tried it before? If not, you are in for a treat! The pie filling is made up of greens, cheeses, herbs and eggs, which are encased in layers of thin, crispy filo pastry. It really is delicious and this one is packed full of flavour!
Spanakopita Pie is a vegetarian dish that originated in Greece. It is best served warm or at room temperature. You really could serve this pie for breakfast, lunch or dinner! A tomato salad would be a great accompaniment . This pie is also great picnic food.
I have made this pie many times and, as you can see from the photos above, I have made the pie in both a rectangle dish and a deep round tart tin. Whatever shape you choose, it just needs to be large enough to hold the filling.
Here are the ingredients I use in the Spanakopita Pie:
- Spinach – The main ingredient in my pie is spinach. You can use fresh or frozen. I tend to use frozen for its convenience. I always have frozen spinach in the freezer. If you choose to use fresh spinach it must be wilted first. Whether you use fresh or frozen, the most important step in preparing the spinach is to remove as much moisture as you can, otherwise the filling becomes too wet. There are 2 ways to do this. The first is to squeeze small amounts of spinach in your hands and continue until all the spinach is done. The second is to place all the spinach onto a flat clean tea towel, fold up the corners so the spinach is enclosed, and squeeze the tea towel several times to remove the excess moisture. I use the tea towel method. Other suggested greens: you could use silverbeet instead of spinach.
- Alliums – this is where you start building the flavour of the pie. I use red onion, leeks, spring onions and garlic. These ingredients are sweated off in olive oil to release their flavour without browning. They are cooked over a low/medium heat until softened and then cooled slightly before adding other ingredients. The red onion and leeks add a lovely sweetness to the filling as well.
- Cheeses – I put 3 cheeses in my pie. The main cheese in Spanakopita is feta. I use Dodoni Greek Feta and also add ricotta and parmesan. The ricotta adds a little moisture and creaminess to the filling without being too rich.
- Herbs – these add a lovely freshness and great flavour. I use dill and continental parsley – fresh herbs of course, not dried. Dill is a must for me.
- Lemon Zest – really lifts the flavour of the filling and adds freshness and vibrancy. I love using lemon zest with ricotta cheese.
- Nutmeg – another thing I love to use with ricotta cheese. Just a small amount but it adds another layer of flavour and some earthiness.
- Eggs – whole eggs are beaten and added to bind the filling together. I use large size eggs.
- Filo Pastry – I like to use filo pastry as the thin crispy golden layers are still light against the filling. I use store-bought pastry. One day I will learn to make filo pastry! You can use puff pastry in this recipe if you prefer. It is still delicious and does save a little time.
- Leeks – to prepare the leeks, wash the leeks to remove any dirt. Slice off the green part as you only use the more tender white part of the leek for this recipe. The green parts of a leek are tougher and we don’t want these in our pie. Remove a couple of outer layers of the leek as well, and discard. Cut the leek into thin slices. If you are using larger leeks, cut the leek in half lengthways before slicing.
- Spring Onions – for this recipe, we use both the white and green parts of the spring onions. To prepare: slice off the bottom of the spring onions to remove the bulb end and trim off any straggly bits from the tops. Wash the spring onions thoroughly to remove any dirt. Slice thinly.
- Filo Pastry – If you have bought frozen filo pastry, defrost it overnight in the fridge. Keep it refrigerated until ready to use. When you are ready to use it, open the packet and unroll the filo so it is flat. Take a ‘just damp’ tea towel and place this over the top of the pastry to stop it from drying out while you are using it.
- When layering the filo pastry, place them, but don’t press down on them as it helps to keep the layers light and flaky.
- Butter – the recipe states 100g butter for brushing the filo pastry, however, I often use a 50/50 mix of butter and olive oil as a slightly healthier option. You can use all olive oil if you wish.
The filling and pastry are easy to make and assemble, so now that you have read my ingredients and tips, let’s get started. Please don’t be put off by the list of ingredients, as they are all very easy to prepare. Here’s my recipe:
- Rectangle baking dish (approx 23cm x 34cm and 5cm deep) or Deep Round Tart tin with loose bottom lid (24-26cm and 5cm deep) or 26cm Round Springform Tin
- Large Frying Pan
- Pastry Brush
- 1/4 c olive oil (60ml)
- 1 red onion chopped finely
- 4 leeks, or 6 small white part only, sliced
- 3 garlic cloves crushed
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper freshly ground
- 8 spring onions sliced
- 600 g spinach defrosted or wilted fresh english spinach
- 2/3 c fresh continental parsley chopped (packed – 40g)
- 1/4 c fresh dill chopped (packed)
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 150 g ricotta
- 200 g feta crumbled
- 100 g fresh parmesan cheese finely grated (I use Parmigiano Reggiano)
- 5 eggs lightly beaten
- zest of 1 large lemon, or 2 small fine
- 100 g butter melted, for brushing pastry (see notes)
- 375 g filo pastry packet
- Preheat the oven to 180°C.Grease the baking dish with melted butter and set aside. Make sure the filo pastry has been defrosted overnight in the fridge ready for use later.
- To Prepare Spinach: If using fresh spinach, wilt them first by washing them and chopping them finely. Place the wet leaves into a frying pan over medium heat, stirring all the time, until they are softened. This wont take long. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Take a clean towel and lay it flat on the bench. Put the defrosted frozen spinach (or the cooled wilted spinach) into the middle of the tea towel and draw up the corners and sides to enclose the spinach. Stand over the sink and squeeze down on the spinach to remove as much moisture as you can. Keep repeating this until the spinach is dry. This is an important step as the spinach must be as dry as possible. Remove the drained spinach and place in a bowl. Separate the spinach as much as you can so it is not clumped together. Set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the chopped onions, leeks and salt and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are softened and translucent. Add the garlic and spring onions and cook for 3 minutes more. Reduce the heat to medium/low if you need to during this time as we don’t want the onion mixture to brown.
- Remove from the heat, and add the prepared spinach to the onion mixture, making sure you distribute the spinach, so it’s not clumping – use a fork or spoon to help break it up. Adding the spinach would have cooled the mixture slightly, so it's now time to add all the other ingredients in the following order:Add the parsley, dill, nutmeg, black pepper, lemon zest and mix lightly. Then add the ricotta, crumbled feta (no big chunks), parmesan and lightly beaten eggs and mix gently until everything is well combined. At this stage, check for seasoning and add more salt if required. Set mixture aside while you prepare the pastry.
To assemble the pie
- Firstly, take the filo pastry from the fridge, open the packet and unroll the pastry. Lay it out flat on the bench near where you will be working, and place a 'just damp' clean tea towel over the top of the filo to prevent it from drying out. For a rectangle pie:Take one sheet of filo and lightly brush it with melted butter. Place it flat, into the bottom of the baking dish so it’s centred and goes up all sides. Brush another sheet of filo with butter and place it directly on top of the first one. Repeat this with 8 more sheets of filo (10 in total for the base). Try not to press down hard on the layers as you are placing them on top of each other. Now add the cooled spinach filling over the top and spread out, so it is nice and even. Brush another sheet of filo pastry lightly with butter and lay this first one butter side down (helps prevent soggy pastry), over the top of the filling to form the lid. Brush the top lightly with butter as well. Brush a second sheet of filo and layer on top of the previous sheet, butter side up. Repeat until you have 6-8 layers (I usually do 6 for the top). Enclose the pie by folding in the overhanging sides of pastry so the filling is fully enclosed. Tuck in any other bits and brush the top and sides with butter making sure the sides are sticking to the top. Optional: Take a sharp knife and score the pastry (not all the way through to the filling) into squares or rectangles (this helps with cutting once it’s cooked. I always do this when I cook it in a rectangle dish). Brush some milk along the score marks as this stops the edges from flaking up.For a round pie in a tart tin:Take a sheet of filo pastry and brush lightly with butter. Place into the bottom of the greased tin, letting it hang over the edge Brush another sheet of filo and lay it on top of, but just off to the side, at a slight angle to the first. Keep repeating this process with 12 more sheets of filo so the whole base and sides are well covered. You want to have overhang with all the sheets as they will be folded over the top of the filling. Place the cooled filling into the tart tin and spread evenly. Take another sheet of filo and lightly butter, then butter and add another 2 sheets on top of it. Take this triple sheet and put on top of the pie into the centre, scrunching it up slightly. Now bring all the overlapped sides of pastry into the middle over the top of the lid and scrunch them up a bit to enclose the top and make it all look a little ruffled (see photo). Brush the top all over with butter. To Cook: Place the pie into the preheated oven and cook for 40-50 minutes or until the filling is set. If the filo is browning too quickly at the 25-30 minute mark, place a piece of tin-foil loosely over the top of the pie and continue baking to allow the eggs to cook through. Once cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15-20 minutes before slicing as the pie needs this time to set. Best eaten warm or at room temperature. Storage: Keeps well in the fridge for 3-4 days. Delicious cold, but it can also be reheated gently in the oven (cover with tin foil to prevent further browning).