How delectable this pie looks! Sometimes I just crave Mediterranean dishes and there is something about the fresh ingredients that go in their dishes which I find very inspiring. I love the herbs and the distinct flavors Mediterranean food encapsulates. This spinach and goat cheese pie I made follows the recipe of spanakopita with a few variations. Spanakopita is a delicious savory pie made of perfectly crispy layers of phyllo dough and a flavorful filling of spinach, herbs and feta nestled in. It’s a very famous dish around the globe. I have tried spanakopita in a couple of restaurants and have also tried making it myself twice. I have noticed a few things along the way, the major one being that I am not very fond of the strong and salty taste of feta and also that the pie should have enough amount of herbs to get that bright and refreshing flavor out. I learned lessons from trial and error, and modified my recipe to create a fail proof pie with a filling of spinach and goat cheese that is so flavorful and rich you’ll wonder why you waited so long to make it a part of your home cooking repertoire.
So let’s start with the filling. The key filling ingredients in a traditional spanakopita recipe are spinach and feta cheese. To these we add flavor makers in the form of herbs and aromatics. But since I am not a feta person, I substituted feta with goat cheese. I have used a blend of fresh and frozen spinach for this recipe. In the past I have tried mixing other tender greens like arugula and chard with spinach but I prefer sticking to the original spinach filling because other greens dilute the mild and sweet taste of spinach.
For the aromatics, I sweat the white onions, green onions and garlic in olive oil until they are tender to fully bring out the flavor without browning them. For the herbs I went with fresh dill, fresh basil and dried oregano. These herbs are quite delicate and won’t overwhelm the pie. Avoid using woody herbs like thyme and rosemary as they are too strongly flavored. I also added some red pepper, black pepper and nutmeg to add an edge to the overall taste. For cheese, I added crumbed goat cheese. I used eggs to bind the filling together. Also make sure to not use a lot of salt as we want our filling to be mild and sweet and too much salt can be an intruder.
Next up comes the phyllo dough. Phyllo dough are thin, buttery layers that hold the filling in the pie and gives it a crunchy, golden halo. Working with phyllo can be frustrating as it’s thin texture makes it delicate to handle. The phyllo dough will tear but it will be just fine! Phyllo actually turns out more beautiful when crumpled and scrunched. With the phyllo you can either make this recipe in the form of pie or in the form of triangle shaped hand pies. I have made a pie out of the phyllo and with the leftover sheets I made a few triangles too. Making this spinach pastry in a form of pie is easier than you think. I felt rather than having fold it up in a perfectly sealed package, it looks prettier when you create more folds and wrinkles while you bundle it up.
I bake the pie until the phyllo is shatteringly crisp and golden. Once baked, I let the pie sit for sometime and then cut it in pie shaped slices. It can be served warm, at room temperature or even cold. It makes for a great side but can easily stand alone as a main dish. You can serve it with a greek salad or have it with hummus or tzatziki.
- 12 oz frozen spinach
- 6 oz fresh spinach
- 1 cup white onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lime
- 2 large eggs
- zest of 1 lemon
- 6 tablespoons chopped basil
- 6 tablespoons chopped dill
- 1.5 tablespoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- salt & pepper as per taste
- 5 oz goat cheese
- 15 – 18 sheets frozen phyllo dough
- 4 tablespoons melted butter
- Take the phyllo dough out of the freezer to allow it time to defrost.
- Also completely thaw the frozen spinach and using a clean kitchen towel, squeeze all the excess moisture out of the spinach.
- Take 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a pan and wilt the fresh spinach for 2 – 3 minutes. Once wilted, squeeze and drain all the excess moisture.
- Chop the fresh and frozen spinach.
- In the same pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat. Add the chopped white onions, green onion and garlic and saute until soft. Add spinach, lime juice and lemon zest and saute on low for 1 -2 minutes. Turn off the heat and let cool.
- In a mixing bowl, add the eggs, chopped basil, chopped dill, dried oregano, red pepper flakes, ground nutmeg, salt and pepper. Give it a nice mix.
- Now add the egg mixture and goat cheese to spinach and fold until it’s all incorporated well together.
- Preheat the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place one phyllo sheet on the lined baking tray. Brush it with some melted butter and repeat layering 3 more sheets over it. Continue layering this way using around 12 – 14 phyllo sheets and forming a star shape while putting the sheets together.
- Spoon the spinach and goat cheese filling in the center of the sheets.
- Bring the edges of the sheets up and over the spinach.
- Brush 3 more sheets with butter and cover the top of the pie with these sheets.
- Brush some more melted butter over the pie and sprinkle some sesame seeds over it.
- Transfer it to the oven and bake it for 35 – 45 minutes, until the pie turns golden brown.
- Once done, remove it from the oven, cut it in pieces and serve warm.