Savory Cheese and Spinach Pie
Spinach Pie or Spanakopita Recipe?
One thing I’ve noticed through traveling is that we often believe a certain dish or recipe comes from one specific place, when really it originated somewhere else.
Consider how close together many of the countries are throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Asia…
Over the centuries, wars, dynasty downfalls, land acquisition, moving borders, and people group migration have blurred the lines of who owns (or started) certain customs and cooking styles.
For instance, when we think of a savory pie filled with spinach and cheese, we immediately think of Spanakopita, which is a Greek dish, right?
However, I have one friend from Macedonia and another friend who lives in Turkey who would strongly disagree.
The truth is, many countries throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean regions have their own version of this herb and cheese pie baked with thin filo pastry sheets. And the same goes for many other dishes, we often consider to be “Greek”.
Of course, we love Greek food and culture, and this is not meant to take away from it in any way. I just feel it is important to clarify, that not all spinach pies are Greek, and not all the dishes we consider Greek actually originated there.
Here in the US, we have a strong Greek-American community. So therefore, many of the wider regional dishes that have been popularized here are thought of as Greek, even though they are enjoyed in many other countries as well.
So why do I feel the need to discuss all this?
Because I didn’t want there to be any confusion on why I’m not calling this spinach pie Greek Spanakopita, and why there are some differences in the recipe.
Spinach Pie with Fresh Herbs
Savory Pies (or pastries) filled with greens, herbs, and cheese are popular throughout the Middle East and in many Mediterranean countries as well.
I actually had something very similar on a trip to Croatia several years back.
These cheese pies can be found in various shapes with intricate patterns on top where the filo dough has been folded in a certain way. Or they can be simply baked, like this recipe, with a crinkled top.
Although we are using spinach as the greens in this savory pie recipe, I’ve also tried them with swiss chard or mustard greens.
The combination of greens, lots of fresh herbs, and multiple kinds of cheese give this spinach pie recipe brilliant complexity and balance!
Herb Cheese Pie Ingredients Checklist
- Ghee – Or use half olive oil and half melted butter.
- Fresh baby spinach – Swiss chard or mustard greens.
- Sweet onion (yellow onion)
- Mint leaves
- Ricotta cheese
- Cheddar cheese – Shred it off the block.
- Feta cheese
- Eggs – To bind all the ingredients together.
- Garlic powder
- Salt and pepper
- Filo dough (Also known as Phyllo Dough/ Phyllo Pastry)
What Equipment You Need
This recipe doesn’t require much to make it. Here is a list of what you will need to make this masterpiece.
- Large Sauté Pan
- 9×13 Casserole Dish
- Wooden Spoon
- Sharp Knife
- Fine Mesh Strainer
- Paper Towels
- Small Bowl
- Pastry Egg Wash Brush
- Optional: Aluminum Foil
How To Make Spinach Pie
- Sauté the Aromatics. Place the ghee in a sauté pan. Add the onions and celery. Sauté to soften and release moisture from the vegetables.
- Wilt the Spinach. Next, add the spinach. Sauté until the spinach has completely wilted down. Then add all the fresh herbs to the pan.
- Squeeze. Place the cooked greens in a fine mesh strainer. Press the greens down to remove as much moisture as possible. (Too much moisture in the filling will make it difficult for the pastry sheets to crisp up.)
- Mix the filling. Place the dried greens back in the pan. Add in all the cheese, eggs, and seasonings. Mix until smooth.
- Brush and Stack. Place a filo sheet out on a work surface. Brush the top of the filo sheet with ghee. Then lay another filo sheet across the top. Continue to layer and brush the filo until you have 6 sheets stacked. Move the stack to the baking dish.
- Fill. Spread the spinach and cheese filling over the pastry sheets in the baking dish.
- Brush and Overlap. Then brush and overlap 6 more filo sheets so they are wider than the top of the baking dish. Overlap the filo sheets with a 2-inch lip on either side, so the final stack is 4 inches wider than the filo stack on the bottom.
- Tuck. Cover the filling with the filo stack. Tuck the edges into the corners and sides. It should look loose and wrinkly in the middle.
- Bake. Bake the spinach pie, until golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes, then cut and serve.
Get the Full (Printable) Savory Cheese and Spinach Pie Recipe Below!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Use Different Greens and/or Herbs?
Of course! Instead of spinach, try using swiss chard, mustard greens, or even collard greens.
You can swap the parsley, mint, and dill for watercress, tarragon, basil, or rosemary.
Can I Use Frozen Spinach?
Frozen Spinach? If you would like to shorten the cooking time by 5-8 minutes, you can use 10 ounces of frozen (thawed) spinach instead of sautéeing fresh spinach. Once the onions are softened, stir in the frozen spinach and herbs. Sauté for 2-3 minutes, then press and drain as directed.
Using Different Cheeses?
Sure! If you are not a fan of any of the cheeses used in the recipe, you can swap them for another cheese with a similar consistency. You need one creamy cheese, one cheese that is a good melting cheese, and one crumbly cheese. (Spanakopita tastes great with parmesan cheese)
Can I Use Oil Instead of Ghee?
Ghee is the best choice of fat for brushing over the filo sheets because it gives you the flavor of butter without browning too fast in the oven.
However, you can mix 1 part oil and 1 part melted butter for a similar effect.
I would not use just oil, because the filo sheets will not get quite as crispy.
Can I Prep Ahead and Freeze?
Why yes! You can make this recipe up to the point of baking, then wrap it well and freeze it for up to 3 months.
When you are ready to bake it, thaw at room temperature, then bake as directed in the recipe.
How Long Do The Leftovers Last in the Fridge?
Wrap well, store in an airtight container, and refrigerate for 5 days.
More Savory Pie Recipes
- Goat Cheese Red Pepper Tart
- Southern Tomato Pie
- Fresh Tomato Cheese Tart
- Green Bean Mushroom Tart
- Irish Potato Pie
See the printable recipe below for the nutritional information including calories, carbohydrates, protein, cholesterol, sodium and fiber percentages.
Savory Cheese and Spinach Pie Recipe
- 2 tablespoons ghee + more for brushing (or use half olive oil and half melted butter)
- 16 ounce fresh baby spinach (or swiss chard)
- 1 large sweet onion peeled and chopped
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1 cup chopped scallions
- 1 cup chopped parsley
- 1/2 cup chopped mint leaves
- 3 tablespoons chopped dill
- 8 ounces ricotta cheese
- 6 ounces shredded cheddar cheese (off the block)
- 4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 12 sheets filo dough thawed (about 9 ounces)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Set a large sauté pan over medium-low heat, and set out a 9X13 inch baking dish.
- Add the ghee to the sauté pan. Once melted, add the onions and celery. Sauté for 5-8 minutes to soften and release the moisture.
- Next add the spinach. Sauté another 5-8 minutes until the spinach has completely wilted down. Then add the scallions, parsely, mint, and dill. Sauté another 2-3 minutes.
- Move the cooked greens to a fine mesh strainer. Press the greens down to remove as much moisture as possible. Then use a paper towel to press again until the greens seem dry. *Too much moisture in the filling will make it difficult for the pasty sheets to stay crisp.
- Place the dried greens back in the pan. Add in all cheese, eggs, and seasonings. Mix well.
- Prepare a small bowl of melted ghee. Brush a thin layer of ghee across the bottom of the baking dish. Place a filo sheet out on a clean work surface. Brush the top of the filo sheet with ghee. Then lay another filo sheet across the top. Continue to layer and brush the filo until you have 6 sheets stacked. Move the stack to the baking dish.
- Spread the spinach and cheese filling evenly over the pastry sheets.
- Then prepare a second filo stack for the top crust. However, this time overlap the filo sheets so they are wider than the top of the baking dish. You want to have a wide enough stack to be able to create wrinkles in the top crust. Brush and overlap 6 filo sheets with a 2-inch lip on either side, so the final stack is 4 inches wider than the bottom stack.
- Move the filo stack to the top of the baking dish. Tuck the edges into the corners and sides. Gently press the top down, just a little, to create wrinkles in the top crust. Brush the top with ghee.
- Bake the spinach pie for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown. If the crust starts to look brown too early, cover the top loosley with a piece of foil, and continue baking.
- Allow the pie to cool for at least 5 minutes. Then cut into 12 pieces and serve.
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