Off a highway in Antirrio, Greece, there is a small rest stop that boasts they have the best and largest selection of “pita” or “pie” (and I’m not referring to a New York pie, a.k.a. pizza, or a dessert pie such as apple – I’m talking savory pies made with handmade filo dough!). I’ve frequented this particular rest stop, and can confirm their boast is justified. On any given day they serve up about 20 different pitas- cheese, spinach, leek, sausage, egg, grilled peppers… you get the picture.
I’m willing to guess there are over one-gazillion different variations for Spinach Pie, or Spanakopita (span-ah-koh-pee-tah). Some call for cream cheese, some for ricotta and others for cottage cheese. Years ago I came across a recipe in one of Ina Garten’s books called The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook that seemed incredibly simple to prepare and called for some very basic but interesting and flavorful ingredients. I tried it, and it instantly became my favorite. Ina Garten states in her intro, “This is like Greek spanakopita but with a lot more of that great filling.” The filling is my favorite part – so I was so happy to fall in love with this recipe. Inspired by this recipe I’ve added leeks (which now makes it Spanakoprasopita (span-ah-koh-praas-soh-pee-ta… whew!).
This version is very different from the spanakopita I grew up on which is usually flavored with dill and thickened with cream cheese. I still like the traditional flavor (and of course I’m referring to my mom’s spanakopita!), but this recipe offers a nice variation. It doesn’t require any out-of-the-ordinary ingredients and it’s amazingly flavorful. The pignoli add a rich and nutty flavor and using nutmeg instead of the traditional dill presents a warm, sweet and spicy taste. It’s loaded with spinach, onions and leeks and so, so flavorful.
Filo dough can be stressful to work with sometimes, especially if making rolls or triangles for appetizers. It falls apart easily and you need to work quickly to avoid the filo from drying out. Another perk to this preparation is that you don’t have to wrestle with the filo too much. Layering, buttering and wrapping the top of the pie is the simplest and least demanding way to prepare this dish. There’s no need to make the top look flat and pretty. Simply flip up the four corners, brush with a lot of butter and after baking you will have a rustic looking and incredibly impressive side dish.
2 cups chopped onions
2 cups chopped leeks
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and drained well
6 large eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons nutmeg
½ cup grated Parmesan Romano cheese
3 tablespoons seasoned dry bread crumbs
1 cup feta, cut into ½ inch chunks or crumbled
½ cup pignoli (pine nuts)
¼ cup salted butter, melted
6-8 sheets filo dough
In a large mixing bowl gently combine well drained spinach, beaten eggs, nutmeg, feta, Parmesan Romano cheese, breadcrumbs and pignoli. Mix in the onions and leeks until everything is well blended.
Prepare an 8-inch pie dish by buttering the bottom. Layer one-by-one 6 to 8 sheets of filo, alternating directions and buttering generously in between layers allowing the edges to hang over the sides. Butter the edges in between layering as well.
Spoon spinach and leek mixture into the pie dish and bring up the corners of the filo to meet in the middle. Butter the top of the filo generously, covering every nook with butter (the butter is going to give you crispy, brown, flaky filo so don’t skimp!)
Bake for 1 hour until the top is golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.
A few tips:
- Allow frozen spinach to thaw in refrigerator overnight. Before preparing mixture drain in a colander for about 30 minutes. Then, take fistfuls and squeeze out as much water as you can before mixing it in with the other ingredients.
- Leeks can be time consuming to clean. I like to chop them first then toss them in a colander or salad spinner to rinse.
- If you can find it try making this pie with #7 filo dough- it’s a little thicker and a lot more forgiving.
(Thank you to my Koumbara and her mama for helping me with the name. Polla filakia!)
©2014 by Alexandra Salidas Roll, Figs & Feta, LLC.
Recipe and photos by Alexandra Salidas Roll of Figs & Feta, LLC. Please do not reprint this recipe without permission. If you would like to feature this recipe on your blog or site, please rewrite the method of preparation and link your post to this one as the original source. Thank you!