A Tale of Two Spanakopitas

Growing up in a Greek/Italian household, a lot of the foods that were eaten both on a regular basis and during holidays typically reflected the flavors of our culture. There was never anything mundane about the food that my family created. It was always made with love and was often originated from a recipe that my YiaYia had floating around in her head. Both YiaYias regularly made their own version of spanakopita, but it’s my mom’s version that she perfected over the years that I have grown to love.

Traditional Greek Spanakopita

  • 2 lbs phyllo dough
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tbs olive oil (for spinach mixture)
  • 1 tbs olive oil (to brush phyllo layers)
  • 1 chopped onion, sweet white
  • 8 – 10 large eggs
  • 3-1lb bags of spinach
  • 1.5 lbs feta cheese (if buying at the deli counter, domestic is best. if buying pre-packaged feta, make sure you drain all liquid before adding it to the spinach mixture.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove phyllo dough from freezer or refrigerator. It should be thawed to room temperature for optimal use.

Spinach Mixture

Rinse spinach in cold water and remove any and all stems. Squeeze spinach dry and place in a large paper towel-lined roasting pan, baking sheet or whatever can hold a large quantity of spinach. (I like to line large disposable aluminum roasting pans with paper towels.) Let sit overnight.

Remove handfuls of dry spinach, picking off any stray stems, and chop coarsely. After you have chopped all the dried spinach, beat eggs well. Crumble the feta into the beaten eggs and mix together with clean hands.

Add the cheese and egg mixture to the pan of dried spinach and mix with clean hands. Add the chopped onion and mix with clean hands.  Drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil over the mixture just before you assemble the spanakopita.

Assembling the Spanakopita

In a large, round aluminum pan (I use a traditional Greek pan), layer 10 pieces of phyllo dough on the bottom of the pan. Brush each layer with the melted butter and 1 tbs of olive oil. You should have 10 layers of phyllo dough on the bottom.

Add half of the spinach mixture and spread evenly. Layer 4-5 sheets of phyllo, brushing each with the butter and oil mixture. Add the other half of the spinach mixture and spread evenly.

Layer 8-10 pieces of phyllo, brushing each with the butter and oil mixture. Brush the top and final layer with the butter and oil mixture to ensure a crispy top.

Bake for 60 minutes or until a light golden brown. Let cool on the stove top and do not cover with aluminum foil. When cooled, cut into squares and serve hot, cold or at room temperature.

Dinner Spanakopita

This next recipe is a twist on the classic spanakopita recipe and really “turns up the volume”. I think you can guess what lovely lady I got this recipe from 🙂 It’s a tad less traditional and more Americanized than what I’m used to in a spanakopita recipe, but I’ve used it for dinner parties in the past and it’s always a smash hit! The spinach mixture is a breeze to make, but folding the phyllo into triangles can be a tad tricky.

  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 3 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
  • 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
  • 4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Plain dry bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups small-diced feta cheese (12 ounces)
  • 24 sheets frozen phyllo dough, defrosted
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan, add the onion, and cook for 5 minutes over medium-low heat. Add the scallions, and cook for another 2 minutes until the scallions are wilted but still green. Meanwhile, gently squeeze most of the water out of the spinach and place it in a large bowl.

When the onion and scallions are done, add them to the spinach. Mix in the eggs, Parmesan cheese, 3 tablespoons bread crumbs, the nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Gently fold in the feta.

Place 1 sheet of phyllo dough flat on a work surface with the long end in front of you. Brush the dough lightly with butter and sprinkle it with a teaspoon of bread crumbs. Working quickly, slide another sheet of phyllo dough on top of the first, brush it with butter, and sprinkle lightly with bread crumbs. (Use just enough bread crumbs so the layers of phyllo don’t stick together.)

Pile 4 layers total on top of each other this way, brushing each with butter and sprinkling with bread crumbs. Cut the sheets of phyllo in half lengthwise. Place 1/3 cup spinach filling on the shorter end and roll the phyllo up diagonally as if folding a flag. Then fold the triangle of phyllo over straight and then diagonally again. Continue folding first diagonally and then straight until you reach the end of the sheet. The filling should be totally enclosed.

Continue assembling phyllo layers and folding the filling until all of the filling is used. Place on a sheet pan, seam sides down. Brush with melted butter, sprinkle with flaked salt, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the phyllo is browned and crisp. Serve hot.

I’ve gotten rave reviews on both versions of spanakopita, so you really can’t go wrong with either recipe 🙂

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3 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Spanakopitas

  1. I had these at a wedding last weekend and they were amazing!! So glad you posted this recipe! I will have to try them out very soon!!

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