As many of you may already know, I am Greek. My grandmother (Yia Yia) still has very strong ties to her Greek roots, and growing up that was especially noticeable in her Greek cooking (not to mention her accent). Whenever we visited her I was always spoiled with baklava, loukoumades, kourabiedes, pastitsio, and spanakopita.
Spanakopita has always been my favorite. It's a hearty pastry made with filo dough and filled with spinach, feta cheese, and scallions. It bakes into flaky perfection and melts in your mouth. This treat is generally served as an appetizer, but I'd be lying if I said I haven't eaten 4 or 5 pieces at once as a main dish.
As a whole spanakopita is a pretty easy dish to put together, but you have to work fairly quickly when using filo dough because it can dry out and break apart. I tried to take detailed photos of the process, but my mother was working so quickly some of them turned out blurry. (She's the spanakopita expert.)
This recipe is special because it's been passed down to me from Yia Yia. And I'm not exaggerating when I say it's the BEST spanakopita recipe you will ever find. Everyone who has ever tried it has gone crazy over it, and my mom gets requests to make it all the time.
YIA YIA'S SPANAKOPITA
- 3 packages of 12 ounce frozen chopped spinach, thawed
- 6 eggs, beaten
- 16 ounces small curd cottage cheese
- 1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
- 1 bunch of green onions, chopped (greens included)
- Salt and pepper to taste (usually 1 teaspoon of each)
- 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks) melted
- 1 roll of filo dough 9 x 14 in sheets of 20 per roll (You generally find filo dough in the frozen foods section so you must thaw it out in the refrigerator)
For the filling
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
- Butter a 9x13 pan
- Drain and squeeze all excess water from the spinach. This is one of the most important parts of successfully making spanakopita. If you don’t squeeze out all the excess water you’ll end up with soggy spanakopita. My best advice for doing this is to let it thaw in a colander and then squeeze and squeeze the heck out of it. Once you think you’ve squeezed it enough, place it between paper towels and squeeze some more!
- Mix the eggs, cottage cheese, feta cheese, and parmesan cheese together.
- Add the drained spinach and green onions to the egg and cheese mixture and mix again.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
For the assembly
- Remove the filo dough from the packaging, unroll it, and place it between 2 towels to keep it cool and moist throughout the process. If the filo dries out, it breaks apart.
- Melt butter over low heat on the stove. When the butter has melted you will see that it has broken down into 3 layers: a white froth, a golden-yellow liquid layer, and a darker milky layer on the bottom. The golden-yellow layer is called clarified butter. You only want to use the clarified butter, so spoon off the white froth on top. As far as the milky sediment layer on the bottom, just avoid it by not sticking your pastry brush too deep into the pot.
- Take a pastry brush and brush a layer of clarified butter on the bottom of the 9x13 pan.
- Add one sheet of filo dough to the bottom of the pan. Brush a layer of clarified butter on top of the sheet.
- Add another sheet of filo dough and brush more clarified butter on top.
- Repeat this process until you’ve layered 10 sheets of filo dough.
- Spread your spinach and cheese mixture on top of the filo dough layer.
- Repeat the process of layering single filo dough sheets and clarified butter until you’ve used the remainder of the filo dough sheets from the package (this should be at least 10 sheets).
- Brush a layer of butter on top.
- Bake for about 50 minutes; the top should be golden brown.
- Let cool before cutting.
The spinach after it's been completely squeezed dry
Add the cheese and egg mixture to the spinach
Mix it all up!
Make sure to remove the cloudy white foam
My mother using a pastry brush to to coat the pan with a layer of butter
Add one sheet of filo dough and use a pastry brush to spread another layer of butter
After you have 10 filo sheets on the bottom as a base, add the spinach and cheese mixture on top
Make sure to spread this layer out evenly
Add 10 or more layers of filo sheets to the top of the spinach mixture, repeating the same butter process
This is what the spanakopita will look like as soon when you pull it out of the oven
It should be golden flaky
Cut up the spanakopita into either square or triangular pieces
Serve it as an appetizer to impress all of your friends!
This recipe is dedicated to my wonderful mother and Yia Yia