It was a little bit ago that we reviewed Trader Joe’s Spinach Pie (Spanakopita) and found it good, but not as good as Mama used to make. Since Mama actually never made spanakopita, that left it up to me to find a recipe and see how Mama would’ve made it, if she had. So here’s Mama’s spanakopita recipe.
Some notes before actually diving in.
Doing a little web research, it became obvious that all the recipes were similar, but the measures for each ingredient were different between recipes. If you haven’t given yourself license to vary recipes, this web research officially gives you the consent to do so. At least for this recipe. Here’s my variation, including making the spanakopita into rolls instead of a casserole pie. Great finger food when the rolls are cut into about inch long pieces. In the end, after making this recipe a few times, spanakopita is a pretty easy thing to make. It will certainly impress your guests with your ability to make something exotic as well as good.
14 oz. package of frozen spinach (or 2 – 10 oz. packages)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 small bunch chopped green onions (or about 1/2 medium diced onion)
6 oz. crumbled feta cheese (Trader Joe’s also has good cheese)
1/2 pound frozen filo dough (see notes below)
3 tablespoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon dill seeds (optional)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, ground
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon butter, melted (optional)
olive oil (probably about a 1/4 to 1/2 cup, see notes below)
The first thing to overcome is fear of filo (also spelt fillo or phyllo – just to confuse everyone). The first part of the fear is where to buy filo dough. No need to go to a specialty grocery store. Most major supermarket chains will have frozen filo dough located usually in the general vicinity of other frozen bread products in the freezer section. The dough I purchased was divided into two 1/2 pound individually wrapped portions. Thus the listing of 1/2 pound filo dough in the ingredients above. Use one now, put one back in the freezer for later. There were about 20 sheets of filo in my 1/2 pound package. This works out nicely for 4 rolls of finished spanakopita.
You’ll read dire warnings about keeping the filo dough from drying out. It turns out, it’s not that big a deal. Laying the thawed filo sheets on a strip of waxed paper or plastic wrap and covering it with a similar sheet of waxed paper or plastic wrap will keep the remaining dough from drying out while you’re making each individual roll. However, don’t tempt fate. Before you take the thawed filo dough out of its package, make sure you have all your spinach mixture, oil, brush, etc., ready to go. Also clear your counter of any unneeded items and make sure you’ll have enough space to lay out the dough and build up the rolls. Have your oiled bake sheet nearby so you can put the finished roll there while you make the next roll.
The first step in making the rolls is to layer up 5 single sheets of filo dough. Brush each sheet with either melted butter or olive oil on the top of the sheet only. The web clearly favors melted butter, but I used olive oil. Olive oil seemed to work and already comes in a liquid form. The brush I used was a barbeque brush. It was probably a little too stiff. If you have a softer brush, go for it. Once you get the oil or melted butter on the sheet of dough, you’re pretty safe from worrying about the dough drying out.
The spinach needs to be dry. Well it will never be dry, so settle for actually squeezing out excess water. Yes, take the spinach in your hand and squeeze. I went the extra mile and also pressed the spinach between paper towel sheets on a plate after squeezing.
Ready to start?
Saute the chopped onions in some olive oil. Mix this with the dried spinach in a mixing bowl. Mix in the crumbled feta cheese, parsley, black pepper, parmesan cheese, dill seeds to the spinach. Lightly whip the two eggs and mix into the spinach. Divide the spinach mixture into 4 equal portions. That’s it for the filling.
Pour some olive oil into a cup or other small container. Get your brush ready. Open the filo dough package, unroll and lay out the filo on the waxed paper. Cover with waxed paper. Uncover the filo dough, take a single sheet off the top, place on your counter or other working surface, re-cover the filo dough, brush the top of the single sheet of filo with olive oil. Repeat with sheets of filo to make up five layers. As this is inherently a messy process, don’t even attempt to be tidy when laying up the sheets. Fast is what we want.
Take a 1/4 portion of the spinach mixture, spread out the long way on the filo covering about 1/3 of the filo dough starting near the long edge. Starting with the edge with the filling, start to roll up the filo sheets around the spinach mixture. Keep rolling until rolled. Take the roll, place it on your previously oiled baking sheet, seam side down. Brush the roll with olive oil. Cover with waxed paper or plastic wrap.
Make the next 3 rolls as above. At the end you will have exhausted your supply of filo dough and spinach mixture and will have filled up your oiled baking sheet with 4 rolls that you know will be wonderful once cooked. You may also brush the top of the rolls with some melted butter if you want to.
Carefully score the uncooked rolls diagonally about an inch apart with a knife. Cut shallow thru about the first 5 layers. Don’t cut down to the filling. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes until browned.
The mixed ingredients
The five sheets of oil brushed filo with the spinach mix ready to roll up
The four oil brushed rolls of spanakopita ready for the oven
A well used baking sheet always adds character to the cooking.
Or is it to the cook?
The cooked rolls
Three delightfully flakey finger food sized spanakopita ready to eat