Spinach pie with phyllo dough (and feta and ricotta cheeses): the awe-inspiring traditional Balkan (Yugoslavian) pie created by several layers of soft filo pastry intertwined with a flawless filling. (Also known as pita zeljanica or pita od zelja.)
If you’ve ever traveled there, YOU KNOW that stuffed phyllo dough pies are an unforgettable Balkan delicacy. Today’s feta, ricotta spinach pie is a perfect example!
These traditional pies were introduced to the region by the Ottomans centuries ago. However, they have since evolved into something very Balkan.
Although many pastries fall under the umbrella of a pie (or pita, pronounced pe-tah, with a hard “t”), individual pies are usually named after their stuffing. Spinach pie is called pita zeljanica or pita od zelja, zelje being “leafy greens.” In some Balkan regions (but definitely not in Bosnia) this pie is also known as burek with spinach.
What is it about these pies makes them so irresistible?
It’s the union of, at the same time, flaky and soft phyllo dough layers and luscious fillings that bake together to golden perfection. And to top it off, a topping of butter and milk. Oh Mama!
Spinach: Use fresh (raw) spinach only! NEVER use frozen spinach for this recipe. Sub partially with swiss chard or nettle, it’s a green pie after all! When cutting up spinach, mincing it will make the flavors come out in the best way.
Cheese: You can sub with goat cheese or queso fresco, but avoid strong cheeses so they don't overpower the spinach. (For example, ricotta and feta make a perfect combo because ricotta softens the harshness of feta, giving the spinach space to shine.)
Oil: Sub with sunflower oil. Don't use olive oil for this recipe.
Our lightning-fast instructions are here to give you an idea of how to make this dish. For more detailed information look at the recipe card below!
1. Make the filling. Heat oven.
2. & 3. Assemble phyllo, coating and filling into several layers.
4. Bake pie.
5. Coat pie with topping. Rest. Eat.
Serving, Storing, Assembly
Serving: Best to serve the pie 20-30 minutes after baking.
Assembly: Assemble just before baking.
Storing: Store in the fridge for up to 2 days. Do not freeze.
Spinach pie is best when it rests about 30 minutes before consumption. However, some people like to eat it cold. If you plan to eat spinach pie a few hours after making it, you can heat it up in the oven or microwave.
Don't freeze your spinach pie if using store-bought phyllo (filo) like in today's recipe. If you are making your own dough then it's ok to freeze it after you stuff the dough with the filling, but before baking.
Most spanakopita recipes use frozen spinach, spinach pie uses fresh. Spanakopita is usually made in three thicker layers while filo spinach pie has many thinner layers of filo and filling. Spanakopita is tangier while ricotta spinach pie has a milder, softer, chewier taste. Spanakopita is flakier and crunchier. Spinach pie can be both, although the topping makes it more soft than crunchy. And finally, spanakopita usually doesn’t have a topping. Spinach pie is topped with milk and butter, or some type of shortening with dairy.
- Crustless spinach pie
- Cheese phyllo pie
- Zucchini pie
- And if you're crazy about spinach as we are, check out How to Use Up Spinach: 41 Smart Ideas and Recipes!
- Finally, have you thought about eating ajvar with your pie? Heavenly!
If you make today's Feta and Ricotta Spinach Pie and enjoy it, please consider leaving a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5-star) rating. This will help others find the recipe more easily!
You can also leave a comment, I read EVERY one! Finally, if IG is more your thing, consider tagging us @balkanlunchbox.
Prijatno and bon appetit!
Feta, Ricotta and Spinach Phyllo Pie
- 16-18 ounces fresh raw spinach (minced)
- 4-5 ounces ricotta cheese
- 4-5 ounces feta cheese shredded
- 16 ounces sour cream
- 5 eggs
- salt to taste
Phyllo and phyllo coating:
- 1 box of phyllo dough 16 ounces of phyllo, or about 18-20 sheets
- 3-4 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Filling: In a large bowl, combine filling ingredients. Whisk until ingredients are completely integrated. Heat oven to 450°f (230°c).
- Assembly: Grease a baking pan.* Layer one phyllo sheet on the bottom of the pan. Brush a thin layer of (butter and oil) coating over the sheet. Add another sheet of phyllo on top of the first one and repeat the coating.
- Grab a generous amount of filling (about 4 tablespoons), and spread evenly over the top sheet. Layer two sheets on top of the filling, coating each before adding the next layer (just like in step two). Top with the filling again and spread it evenly. Repeat phyllo, coating and filling layers until you run out ingredients. Make sure the last, top, pie layer has at least 3-4 sheets of phyllo.* Brush it with coating put the pan in the oven.
- Bake 5 min. Lower temperature to 400°f (200°c) and bake another 30 min.* Monitor the pie so it doesn’t blush too much (or burn). If it blushes too much lower the temperature to 355°f (180°c) or cover with foil.
- Topping: In a small pan combine milk and butter. Warm up the milk just until the butter melts. Take the spinach pie out of the oven. Using a teaspoon distribute the topping evenly over the pie. Turn the oven off and return the pie inside for a few minutes; alternatively, you can cover it with a clean kitchen towel. (If able to resist) Rest pie for 20-ish minutes, then serve.