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I am Greek. I did not, however, grow up in a family like the one portrayed in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. My mother did not pack me “mouss-ka-ka” for lunch. My aunt never chased me around with a roasted lamb’s eyeball. And I never felt pressure to marry a nice Greek boy nor to become a Greek baby-breeding machine.
But I do have about 50 uncles named Nicky. And my aunt’s vegetarian chili does contain lamb. And many family celebrations do culminate in circular dances stepped to the rhythm of Macedonian folk music. And every woman in my family does make it her mission to feed everyone around her till the day she dies.
Greek food is comfort food for me, and yet, if you searched the recipe archive of my blog, you’d never know it. You’d never know that before my mother comes to visit, I request she make a spanakopita, and that once she’s here, keftedes (lamb meatballs), and that before she departs, kourabiedes (powdered-sugar almond cookies).
In preparation for Easter, I’ve started brushing up on a few of my favorite Greek recipes, starting with spanakopita. Here I’ve halved my family’s recipe, which fills a 10×13-inch roasting pan with enough spanakopita to feed a large family for weeks, and made 10 strudels instead — isn’t everything more delicious when baked in small packages? In strudel form, spanakopita assumes an almost breakfast croissant-like character, a perfect bundle of flaky pastry, egg, cheese, and greens. Yum.
Over the next few weeks, as my Easter menu — spanakopita, keftedes, tzatziki, and olive bread — comes together, I hope the all-but-absent Greek category on this blog starts gaining a presence. I’ll be sure to keep you posted. Happy spring everyone.
When making spanakopita, don’t be tempted to brush each layer with butter. If you spoon a few teaspoons of butter over each layer, the resulting pastry will be lighter and flakier.
- Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
- Yield: 9 to 10
Fillo comes in all shapes and sizes these days. The variety I can find, Athens brand, weighs 1 pound and contains two 8-oz bags of 20 sheets each measuring 9 x 14-inches. This size sheet is perfect for strudels. If your fillo comes in the larger sheets, cut it in half so that it’s roughly 9 x 14-inches. (Don’t cut the fillo until you’re ready to assemble. See step 4 below.) If you’re making a large pan of spanakopita, this small size of fillo is kind of pain — use two sheets per layer.
- 10 oz. baby spinach
- 8 oz. cottage cheese (small curd)
- 12 oz. feta
- 5 eggs, beaten
- 1 box fillo dough, thawed at room temperature for a few hours or in the fridge overnight
- 1 1/2 sticks butter, melted
- In three batches, place spinach in food process and pulse until just roughly chopped. Place in a large bowl.
- Add cottage cheese, feta cheese (break this into pieces as you add it to the bowl) and eggs. Use a spatula to stir it all up.
- Set up your work station: A large cutting board is helpful (see picture below). I use a 1/2 cup measuring cup to measure out the filling. You need a teaspoon (like one you eat cereal with not a measuring teaspoon) to spoon butter onto the fillo dough and you need a brush to brush butter onto the assembled strudels. Line a sheetpan with parchment paper and set aside.
- Open up the box of fillo. If your fillo is like mine — in that it comes in two sealed bags — open up one bag and unroll it. Place it next to your cutting board. Fillo dries out quickly, so if you need to step away from your assembly process, be sure to gently re-roll it or fold it up and place it in a ziplock bag. If you are working with the larger sheets, cut them in half to roughly measure 9 x 14-inches. Place half (about 20 sheets) in a ziplock bag.
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. Place one sheet of fillo on your cutting board or work surface. Spoon three teaspoons (again, an eating spoon vs. a measuring spoon) of the melted butter over the layer of fillo (see picture above in the upper-left corner of the montage). Note: You do not have to brush it or make sure that every bit of the dough is covered with butter. The finished spanakopita is actually lighter when you don’t brush the dough with butter. Top with another layer of fillo. Spoon three more teaspoons of butter over the areas of this layer that were not covered in the previous. Top with one more layer of fillo and again spoon over three teaspoons of butter.
- Using your 1/2-cup measuring cup, scoop out a level 1/2-cup filling and place on fillo about 2-inches from the bottom (see photo above). Pull bottom of fillo overtop of this filling. Fold sides in. Then, fold this bottom portion up and over itself and keep folding till you’ve made a little parcel. Place this parcel seam side down on your parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush top with butter. Repeat with remaining fillo and filling.
- Bake strudels for 30 to 45 minutes or until nice and golden brown on top. Cool briefly and serve.
- Prep Time: 45 minutes
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Oven
- Cuisine: Greek
Keywords: spanakopita, strudels, spinach, feta, fillo, phyllo, vegetarian
Update: 7-17-2012: Full-size spanakopita for your reference. This was from this past Easter:
- Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
- Yield: 12 servings
- 2 10oz. pkg of baby spinach or 3 6oz pkgs (about 20 oz total)
- 16 oz. cottage cheese (small curd)
- 3 8-oz. pkgs feta (24 oz. total)
- 10 eggs (well beaten)
- 1 pkg fillo dough (20–28 layers)
- 3 sticks butter (gasp! melted)
- Chop up baby spinach — you can do this very quickly in the food processor. Just do a rough chop.
- In a large bowl, combine the spinach, cottage cheese, feta cheese (break this into pieces) and eggs. You can whisk this all together or use a spatula.
- Butter the bottom and sides of a large roasting pan. Use about two sheets of fillo per layer — they’ll overlap a little bit, but you need about two to cover the surface of the pan. In between each layer, spoon three teaspoons (an eating spoon vs. a measuring spoon) of the butter over the layer of fillo. You don’t have to brush it or make sure that every bit of the dough is covered with butter. The finished spanakopita is actually lighter when you don’t brush the dough with butter. Depending on how many layers of dough your box of fillo has, layer half of the number of sheets in the pan to form the bottom layer of the spanakopita. Pour the filling over top. Repeat layering the fillo dough on top of the filling with butter in between each layer until you are out of dough. Brush the top layer with butter. Bake at 350ºF for 1 hour.
- Prep Time: 45 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hour
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Oven
- Cuisine: Greek
Keywords: spanakopita, spinach, feta, vegetarian, Greek
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145 Comments on “Spanakopita Strudels”
I’ve been wanting to make spanakopita for ages now. I think I’m going to use this recipe. It seems so easy and the strudels are so cute 😀
When i saw this recipe, i remembered the wonderful flavour this strudels have (i was in Greece last year, and i just loved them).
I have to tell you, that i visit a lot of food blogs everyday ’cause i want to learn more & more about food photography, and i fell in love with yours at first sight.
I’m gonna explore it and see if you have some Baclava recipe. 😉
Keep up with the wonderful blogging, and thanks for being a great inspiration to my food photography.
Tapas — I do in fact have a baklava recipe. Here you go! https://alexandracooks.com/2007/08/26/baklava/
This looks amazing. Happy Spring!
I´ve been thinking about spanakopita for the last month. We here have pie called Pascualina (Pascua=Easter) that´s basically spinach, onion, eggs, ricotta and parmesan. More italian than greek since it´s made with tart dough, usually double crust. Anyway, your post is terrific with the strudel idea. Hope to try to make it soon. Love it
These look like fun! I’ve seen spanakopita on menus before but wasn’t sure what was in it, and chicken that I am, declined to order it. Nothing scary in these so they are on my list to try – thank you for sharing!
yum – going to try this tomorrow.
Question: cottage cheese? Is this what “real greeks” use when making spaniko*
(seriously – I’d like to know if there is a different “traditional” mixture of feta and … but I will try it this way)
Peter — I asked myself the same question as I typed up the recipe last night. This is seriously the recipe that my grandmother used that she got from her mother who was from Greece. But I’m going to call my mother right now. There must be some other “farmers” or fresh cheese that was used in place of the cottage cheese. I have a feeling cottage cheese was used because the “real” ingredient wasn’t available at the time, but these days, you can find anything. Will report back on this. I hope the strudels come out well for you!
Peter — My mother says that the “real Greeks” use a soft sheep milk cheese the texture of ricotta called myzithra not to be confused with dry/hard myzithra (kind of like the difference between ricotta and ricotta salata).
They look so good! My aunt used to make spanakopita a lot for special things, because it was tasty and vegetarian, so it’s one of my comfort foods too.
Wow, these look wonderful. Thanks. I’ll be trying this out soon. As soon as I think spinach and feta, though, I have to add lemon zest and pepper. I don’t think I’ll be able to resist the urge to add these to your recipe! Can’t help myself. I’m sure a fresh yoghurt based home made cheese, like a labne, could be substituted for the ricotta for those inclined to look for something other than ricotta?
Wendos — lemon zest sounds lovely! I just responded to Peter’s comment below, but my mother says that the Greeks use a cheese called myzithra in place of the cottage cheese. I haven’t used labne before — how thick is it? That sounds like a nice idea.
thank you – just got these babies in the oven! We are going to eat some tonight, and then freeze a couple for my newly vegetarian 11yr old daughter’s school lunch.
Peter — I can’t wait to hear how they turn out! These make yummy cold leftovers. I hope your daughter approves!
if you can squeeze Darcy and Rob in then I’m guessing you have room for Zach and I! We’re currently planning on heading to Italy, but perhaps it’s not too late to change our plans.
I love hearing about your Easter feast! These strudels sound/look incredible, and I’ve already added them to my ever growing whats-for-dinner google document.
The ‘how-to-wrap’ sequence of photos is wonderful, love it! Happy Easter cooking!
Do you think these would freeze well? Individually wrapped and un-baked? Thanks!
Megan, I wish I knew! I’m planning on making these for Easter — I’m hosting 8 adults total — and am thinking about preparing them ahead of time and storing them in the freezer until the day of, but I’m kind of worried. I might not have an answer for you until Easter itself. If I don’t get around to preparing them ahead of time, I might freeze one on Easter Sunday and bake it off later in the week. I’ll report back. Sorry I can’t be more helpful at the moment!
I grew up on spanakopita although I’m not Greek, many restaurants in my hometown were Greek. I’m looking at your photo and drooling. I’m now wondering how would a ravioli taste with this filling. I just made some homemade pasta and the dough is resting. Another thought would be using this filling for crepes. But your crispy packaging would be my number one choice.
We had a late Easter with our daughter two days ago. She is a vegetarian which sometimes makes menu planning a challenge. I made your strudels which were a real hit! I did add some sautéed onion to the mixture which we liked. My mixture was a little too eggy so the strudels oozed egg during baking. But these are so good, and impressive too. Fillo is much easier to work with than anyone would think. Thanks Alexandra!
Sunie — I’m so happy to hear this! Egg always oozes from several of my strudels, too — even when I feel I’ve been careful about sealing and when I’ve placed them seam side down. Alas, it doesn’t seem to affect the flavor. Hope you had a wonderful Easter!
These were great I made them for breakfast for our guests. Elegant yummy and healthy, thanks do much from the inn on Poplar Hill in Orange Virginia
The Happy Innkeeper — This makes me so happy! Thanks so much for writing in. Your Inn looks absolutely beautiful. I think my husband and I need to get away for a weekend. We’re just about an hour from you. Fun! So glad the strudels were a success!
Wonderful recipe! I would like to try it adding to the baby spinach some wild garlic ( chttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramsons ) and some pepper.
You have an amazing blog: great recipes and wonderful food photography mixed with native talent and love.Congratulations!
Thank you, Cosmin. Ramps sound like a perfect addition!
I made them last night. It’s a very easy recipe to make and they were amazingly good!
Thanks for sharing another awesome recipe Alex.
Margherita — I’m so happy to hear this! My grandmother would be so proud!
Hi Alexandra! I’m preparing this recipe your way for tonight’s dinner however being Greek myself I wanted to clear everyone’s suspicions about the proper choice of cheese. Even though I’m pretty sure your grandmother and mother have been rocking the spanakopita trend for many years, in Greece we either use mizithra (in both versions; the soft-not-very-salty but also the harder-but-salty one) or feta (pure yumminess) in spanakopita. There is no such thing as cottage cheese in traditional greek cuisine or ricotta which is totally italian. Nowadays we use ingredients depending on our individual taste of course but traditionally speaking you have to add a greek cheese to achieve the real thing! Take care! Love from Athens xxx
Maria — I wish I could come visit in Athens. I still have one relative there, and my mother in fact is going to visit on June 16th. I’m so jealous!
I need to make a note about the mizithra. If you scroll up through the comments, you’ll see that Peter (comment 7) asked what “real Greeks” would use in place of cottage cheese, and I responded (after asking my mother) that they would in fact use mizithra (comment 11). Thank you for confirming! I wish I could find mizithra here. My local grocery stores don’t have the best cheese selections unfortunately.
Hi Alexandra! I wish you could come to Athens; in that case we’d have the chance to meet! I read all the comments of this post (I always do; you have some great followers here!) but I still felt like giving a fresh view on such a “sizzling matter” of a modern Greek amateur cook. I hope you didn’t mind… However if you desperately need greek mizithra, I could maybe send you a piece of original cretan dry mizithra which is great on pasta as well!
Maria — You are too nice to offer to send me some mizithra! I cannot have you do that. There is a great cheese shop in DC that I’m going to check out for some mizithra. My mother is in Greece right now visiting relatives. I am so jealous. Love the idea of using mizithra with pasta. Thanks!
Made these this evening and they were lovely. Thank you 🙂
Charlotte — so happy to hear this. Thanks so much for writing in!
This recipe looks amazing, but I was wondering if you could give me the adjusted directions for making the larger, more traditional casserole style rather than the strudels. I have been hunting for an authentic and manageable recipe for ages and am really looking forward to trying this!
Angela — hi! I have been meaning to do this since Easter. Thanks so much for giving me the inspiration to actually update the post. I have added a couple of photos (no process photos unfortunately) and the recipe for the large pan. Hope that helps!
Thanks SO much!!! Really looking forward to trying this 😀
Angela — of course!
Just saw your post and your spanakpita looks great. I make this all the time and add a few more ingrediants. I add scallions, onions and dill and a pince of nutmug. Also spanakopita freezes well and can be baked frozen; no thawing needed. Look foward in reading more of your recipes. Kale orexe!
Callie — love the idea of scallions and onions and nutmeg. Yum! I should make a note in the recipe about freezing — you are right, spanakopita freezes beautifully. Thanks for writing in!
I just wanted u to know that I had been looking through some pins, on pinterest, and when I saw a picture of these, I literally screamed and came right to the linked website for the recipe! Planning on making these little masterpieces tomorrow night! 🙂
I’m sure they will be great! So excited!!! Keep up the good work! 😀
Sarah, thanks so much! I hope they turned out well for you!
I will have to agree with Sarah… i am dying to try this out. My only problem is that i live in india, so we do not get fillo dough, so I’ll have to make the dough from scratch. Any idea how to?
Suhaya — Homemade fillo dough would be quite an endeavor! My mother has memories of her grandmother making fillo from scratch. I have not tried myself, but here is a link from a quick google search: https://greekfood.about.com/od/greekbreadspitas/r/phyllo.htm
Do you think these could be frozen?
Anne-Marie — I have frozen the strudels unbaked, and they bake off just fine, but I haven’t been able to get them as golden when they are baked from the freezer. The flavor is great, but the color is just not there. I haven’t tried to hard to fix the color issue, but I imagine you could brush them with butter in the last five minutes to help increase the browning. Just a thought.
I have always cooked the spinach first. Does it not cause moisture issues?
Rebekah — it doesn’t! My family has never cooked the spinach first and it always comes out without any moisture issues. We do always use baby spinach — not sure if that makes a difference. Side note, I used to think you had to sauté greens for quiche to avoid the moisture issues you are worrying about. Not the case. I learned from the Tartine cookbook that you can add raw greens like kale, spinach, etc., right into the unbaked quiche. It is delicious! I never sauté greens for quiche anymore.
OMG…This is so me and my sister but we did kinda have the ” The Big Fat Greek wedding” life without the greek school. Our mom past away when I was 16 but the rest of the family kept the Greek culter alive. My sister and I just had our “Greek Day” my sister made the Meatballs – Used veal insted of lamb and I made the spinach pie. I do use frozen and we add scallions. Instead of folding them like you do I make flags. Im so happy the you posted this!!
LeeAnn — thanks so much for sharing your Greek Day! Sounds wonderful as well as delicious. I’m curious about the flag shape? Can you describe a little more? Sounds beautiful!
made these using kale from the garden instead of spinach. so awesome!
my kids ate them up without complaining about eating kale… also used fresh eggs from our chickens. thank you for this recipe… super yummy!
Meadow — love the idea of using kale! That would be preferable to me in fact. I adore kale!
We love spanakopita around here. I usually make it in a casserole dish. The flag shapes, or triangles, are very time consuming. I also like the bundles that you made. Thanks.