Spanakopita is a tasty Greek savory pie filled with spinach, eggs, and feta, daily served as snack, appetizer or light lunch, and particularly appreciated by the kids! This spinach and feta pie has ancient root and probably has been influenced by the Ottoman cuisine. Here the Spanakopita recipe and history!
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ORIGIN OF SPANAKOPITA
Since the times of Ancient Greece, it was common making savory pies as a snack or packed meal. At that time, the pies were prepared with various flours obtained by barley, millet, oat, or rye. Initially, the filling of this pies was composed by a mixture of legumes, cheese, garlic, and honey. Later, particularly in the countryside, the farmers started to add mixed vegetables and herbs into the stuffing.
It's likely that the Spanakopita as we know it nowadays originates from the Ottoman Empire, probably during the occupation of Greece began since the XV Century. The characteristic dough called Phyllo or Filo derives from the Greek word φύλλο that means "leaf", and symbolize perfectly the thin and crispy layers that compose the crust of this pie.
Probably he Phyllo dough originates from the Ottoman Yufka pastry: a dough which in turn was inspired by the pastries prepared in the regions between the modern Turkey and India. The chefs of the Ottomans sultans reworked the original recipe, shaping the dough into thinner layers.
The legend wants that the first recipe prepared with the Ottoman Yufka has been the Baklava: the traditional cake with nuts and honey. Furthermore, another proof of the Ottoman influence over the Spanakopita is the Turkish Ispanakli Borek: a similar pie with spinach and Yafka pastry but without cheese.
Even if the classic Spanakopita stuffing is basically made with spinach and herbs, some variations suggest the use of other green vegetables like sorrel or chard, particularly in the countryside. Furthermore, some chefs prefer to use leeks instead of scallions.
SPINACH PIES IN THE INTERNATIONAL CUISINES
As I said, Spanakopita has been probably influenced by the Ottoman Ispanakli Borek. Other recipes similar to Spanakopita are the Italian Torta Pasqualina typical in Easter time in Liguria, and the Emilian Erbazzone. The Lebanese Fatayer is a little pie filled with meat or spinach and cheese. Eventually, In Serbia and Bosnia it is traditional a spinach pie made with cottage cheese and cornmeal called Pita Zeljanica.
SPANAKOPITA TIPS AND SUGGESTIONS
- The Phyllo dough is quite hard to make at home, so I suggest you buy it ready to use.
- Cut and serve Spanakopita at lukewarm or room temperature. If you prefer the pie warmer, wait 10 minutes at least.
- Spanakopita gives its best a few time after ready, but this pie is also perfect for a vegetarian lunch-box!
- • 1 Lb (450 g) spinach
- • 7 oz (200 g) Phyllo pastry
- • 8 oz (225 g) feta cheese crumbles
- • 4 tbsp (90 g) greek yogurt
- • 12 scallions (alternatively, 1 cup leek, minced)
- • 2 tbsp mixed fresh herbs (coriander, oregano, mint, dill)
- • 1 organic lemon
- • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- • 3 eggs
- • 1 tsp black pepper
- • to taste table salt
- THAWN PHYLLO DOUGH
The Phyllo dough is hard to make at home, so I suggest you to buy it frozen.
Thawn the Phyllo at room temperature a couple of hours or 1 night in the fridge.
Leave the Phyllo dough rolled into its bag until the spinach filling is ready, then unroll and use.
- SPINACH AND SCALLIONS
First of all, rinse the spinach thoroughly, then cut and discard the tougher ends of the stems. After that, cut roughly the spinach leaves. Now, reduce into thin rings 4 whole scallions and the white part of 8 other scallions. Pour the scallions in a pot big enough to cook the spinach along with 2 tbsp of olive oil. Saute the scallions over medium/low heat until tender but not brown, then add the spinach leaves along with 1 generous pinch of salt. Stir-fry the spinach until they lose almost all their liquid, then pour them into a colander, and press gently with a spoon to purge the rest of the water.
- PREPARE THE FILLING
Pre-heat the oven to 355° F (180° C).
Now, rinse and mince the herbs. Then, pour the spinach along with the Feta crumbles, and the Greek yogurt, and the minced herbs into a bowl. Complete with the black pepper, salt to taste and grated lemon skin. After that, crack 2 eggs and whisk a little, then add them to the other ingredients. Whisk eventually the Spanakopita filling until consistent.
- FILLING THE SPANAKOPITA
Now, unroll the phyllo dough, then grease a 10 inches square baking dish with olive oil.
Then, proceed this way:
• Line the casserole with 3 layers of phyllo leaving at least 2 inches of dough over the edges of the dish. If the sheets are not large enough, use two different groups phyllo layers overlapped a little in the center of the baking plate.
• After that, grease with olive oil, and add 3 more layers of pastry, rotated 90 degrees to the first layers.
• Then, pour the Spanakopita stuffing in the casserole and spread the mixture uniformly.
• At this point, cover the mixture with 3 layers of dough, grease with a little amount of olive oil, then add 3 more layers of phyllo.
• Finally, grease the pastry lid with 1 tbsp of beaten egg, and spray or use your hands to sprinkle a very little with water.
• Bake immediately at 355° F (180°) for 45 to 55 minutes depending on your oven, until the crust become nicely golden and crispy.
- SERVING SPANAKOPITA
Once ready, let the Spanakopita reach lukewarm or room temperature, then cut and serve.
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