What is spanakopita?
Spanakopita (Greek spelling σπανακόπιτα, pronounced: “span-na-kop-pit-ta”) is a family favourite in Greece. This crispy, golden-brown cake is made from filo pastry and filled with spinach, feta and fresh herbs. The name of the dish is a combination of two Greek words, namely σπανάκι (spanaki or spinach) and πίτα (pita or cake/bread).
The Greeks love savoury pies and you can see them in all kinds of regional kitchens. It has always been a suitable way to feed the whole family with a small budget; you don’t need more than some wafer-thin rolled dough made from flour and water, leftovers from cheese or meat, and vegetables from your own garden. In addition to spanakopita, there are many other cakes on the authentic Greek menu, including:
Tyropita: cheesecake made with local cheeses
Kreatopita: meat pie, filled with minced meat or pieces of meat
Bourekakia: portable savoury tarts, available in various shapes and sizes. The filling also varies.
Did you know...
Although the word spinach is in the name of the dish, people are quite flexible in Greece when it comes its filling. Spinach can be replaced by other dark leafy vegetables such as chard, kale or even dandelion leaf. Fresh herbs are a must, but can also be varied. Think of marjoram, oregano, dill, basil, or fennel – preferably a lot of them! Only rosemary is used in moderation due to its strong taste.
How to make spanakopita
A base of onion and garlic is fried in olive oil. The spinach is cooked until all the moisture has evaporated and then mixed with crumbled feta, chopped fresh herbs – the precise composition is left to the chef – and egg to complete the filling. The bottom of the cake is then made up of two separate layers of filo pastry covered with melted butter or olive oil. The filling is placed on the pastry, followed by quite a few layers of filo pastry. The spanokopita is then baked in the oven.
How to eat
In Greece, spanakopita is often cut into small cubes and eaten as a side dish during family celebrations and other festive meals. Of course, it is perfect as a vegetarian main course or as part of a mezze display.
Spanakopita is reminiscent of Turkish borek, which is often filled with spinach and/or feta.