I try to remember the last time I threw a dinner party without some kind of pita (not to be confused with pita bread; pita is pie in Greek) on the menu and honestly, there is none! Whether I am serving fish or meat as a main course, I make sure there is always a spanakopita or tyropita (cheese pie) in the spread.
The best thing about making a savory pie is that you can always improvise when it comes to the filling and the phyllo (leaf, literally, or crusty sheet dough in a pie context). As a kid I must have tasted a million versions of cheese or spinach pie and let me tell you, I never got bored! Maybe because we have such a variety of delicious cheeses and aromatic greens in Greece, one can never stop experimenting.
The spanakopita recipe I post here is a mix of what my mother taught me and what my family prefers (crusty phyllo dough and NO LEEKS lol). But this is just my version; get creative and you might surprise yourselves!
- 1 packet of crusty phyllo dough (approx. 12 sheets), thawed
- 2.5 pounds fresh spinach leaves (you can also use a big bag of frozen chopped spinach)
- 2 dry onions
- 2 scallions
- A bunch of dill, chopped
- 18 oz feta cheese, preferably Greek and not low-fat, crumbled
- 4 oz kefalograviera cheese, grated (parmesan, or pecorino will do fine)
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup, plus 1-2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup of whole milk
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Black sesame seeds (optional)
- Heat the oven to 350 F.
- Rinse the spinach (if not using pre-washed) and soak it for 2 minutes in boiled water. It takes the 'bitterness' out, my mom says. Strain it well.
- In a large sauté pan heat the tablespoon(s) of olive oil and sauté on medium heat the chopped onions, scallions, dill, drained spinach and a little salt until they are soft and have absorbed most of their juices, approximately 10 minutes.
- In a big bowl beat the eggs until fluffy, then add the crumbled feta and the grated cheese of your choice. Finally, add the spinach mix and blend well. Add some milk, depending on how thick the mixture is. Season with pepper.
- Oil well a 18'' roasting pan or casserole dish (the size should be a good fit for your phyllo sheets) and start spreading the phyllo sheets. Make sure to keep them covered once you take them out of the pack because they will air-dry in seconds and tear up. A slightly damp tea-towel will keep them nice and manageable. Handle one sheet at a time and place it on the pan as if you are trying to cover its surface. The edges can line the sides of the pan so that you can fold them in at the end. Using a brush, oil each sheet very well, so that it becomes crunchy when baked. Cover it with another sheet, oil it well and so on and so forth until you have used about 7 sheets for the base of the pie. Now spread the spinach and cheese mixture evenly on the 7th sheet and resume with the rest of the phyllo sheets, about 5 should be fine. Now you can either fold in the edges of the sheets, or cut them. I personally like having a bunch of scrunched up phyllo around the pita. Make sure that you oil those edges well, because they will dry up easier.
- With a sharp knife score the pitta into squares so that you allow the steam to escape and not puff up your phyllo.
- Finally oil the top sheet and sprinkle it with some milk. Add black sesame seeds if you so wish and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until it becomes golden brown, top and bottom (lift and check!)
- When it's done let it rest uncovered for about 10-15 minutes before serving. If you cover it up you will end up with soggy phyllo and nobody wants that, right?