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.
I followed the recipe exactly as written and it turned out perfectly! The only thing I changed was the baking temperature, because my oven tends to run on the hot side. I baked it at 400 for 30 minutes instead and it was perfect! One question: would the recipe for cheese pie be the same minus the spinach?
Yes! The recipe for the cheese pie (sirnica) is ultimately the same, although I also add feta cheese instead of spinach. Not as much, maybe 4-5 ounces, and then I mix it really well with cottage and ricotta (and rest of the ingredients). I'll be honest with you, I still haven't found cheese for pita that I'm crazy about in the US. In the Balkans they use fresh cow cheese, and it's divine.
I have found somewhat similar fresh cheese in Mexican supermarkets . Works great if you combine sour cream with it.
I'll look when I return to DC. There are a few European and Latin markets. Great idea though, there is always a potential of finding something similar to what's back home in those places. Thanks for stopping by Katice. 🙂
This is my new favorite thing ever. I've been finishing up the leftovers all day. Amazing!
Thanks sweetie! Super easy.
Mirjana Szendeleit says
Hi, my name is Mirjana & I'm from Perth, Western Australia.
I hope you can tell me if you have in english the recipes for both sweet & salty cheese pita & also something called Kipfle.
I would love to make these. I appreciate your help with this. Your website is fantastic & I LOVE that it has the English translation of the recipes. Thank you so much.
Glad you find the site useful 🙂
Salty cheese pie with store phyllo recipe is here: https://balkanlunchbox.com/phyllo-cheese-pie-slagana-sirnica-recipe/
Sweet crescent rolls (sweet kiflas) are here: https://balkanlunchbox.com/crescents-crescent-rolls-domace-kiflice-kifle-recipe/
We don't have the one for sweet cheese pie.
Hope that helps!
Mirjana Szendeleit says
Thank you for that. I know my mum makes both salty & sweet pita. If you like I will try to get the recipe from her as she lives interstate.
Yes, I'd love to hear more about it.
(The closest on the blog is the plum pie: https://balkanlunchbox.com/plum-pie-recipe-sljivopita/)
Jenny Power says
Hi! Just wondering if this still tastes good after being in the fridge for the night? I need to make it 24 hours before it will be eaten! Should i heat it up the next day in the microwave or whats the best?
Sorry for the delay! I was on travel and just found your comment. Generally you can keep almost all Balkan pies in the fridge overnight except the ones made w potatoes (potatoes don't hold well). You could even leave it in the oven overnight, I do that from time to time, just cover with a kitchen towel. You can heat it up in the microwave, although I prefer the oven (10ish minutes should do it).
VERY GOOD RECIPE.
MY SERBIAN WIFE FORGOT HER RECIPE SHE LEARNED AS A CHILD IN KNIN THAT SHE WOULD MAKE FROM MEMORY WHICH INCLUDED COTTAGE CHEESE. I USED YOUR RECIPE WITH SOME IMPROVIZATION:
1. ONE BOX ONLY OF 14 SHEETS OF FILO DOUGH WITH THREE SHEETS ON THE BOTTOM AND TOP AND TWO EACH SEPARATING EACH OF FOUR LAYERS IN A 14 X 11 INCH PAN THAT WAS HAND BUTTERED AND THEN LIGHTLY FLOURED ON THE BOTTOM AND THE FOUR SIDES.
2. EACH FILO SHEET WAS BRUSHED WITH MELTED UNSALTED BUTTER (TOTAL OF 3 - 3 1/2 STICKS ONLY)
3. TO THE MIX YOU LISTED, I ADDED 8 OZ OF COTTAGE CHEESE.
4. TWO 9 OZ PACKAGES OF CHOPPED FROZEN SPINACH HAND SQUEEZED TO REMOVE AS MUCH WATER AS POSSIBLE AFTER BEING THAWED OUT.
5. THE ENTIRE CONTENTS OF THE RECIPE WERE PUT INTO A KITCHEN AIDE 5 QUART MIXER AND THEN SPOONED OUT EQUALLY OVER THE FOUR LAYERS OF FILO DOUGH.
6. PREHEATED THE CONVECTION OVEN TO 400 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT AND THEN PUT THE FILLED PAN INTO THE OVEN ON THE MIDDLE SHELF AND BAKED FOR ABOUT THIRTY FIVE TO FORTY FIVE MINUTES. I USED A CAKE TESTER ALONG THE WAY.
7. RAVE REVIEWS FROM THE SERBIAN FAMILY. (I PERSONLLY LIKE EATING IT WITH MAPLE SYRUP; MY WIFE LIKES APRICOT SYRUP).
P.S.: I USED DOUBLE OR 2X YOUR RECIPE.
So glad you and your family liked it! Thanks for a detailed comment, I'm sure some of our readers will find it helpful. 🙂
So delicious! And easy to make. Will definitely make it again - soon. 👌🏼😃
Delighted you enjoyed it. Thanks for letting us know Marianne!