The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. Follow Ina Garten’s recipes and you will live a long, happy, extremely delicious life.
Seriously though. I have yet to go wrong with one of her creations. I first discovered her when I was searching for the perfect macaroni and cheese recipe (another post all together) and have since sworn by her recipes. Flipping through her first cookbook, I saw one for Spinach Pie that looked relatively simple, full of cheese and surrounded by phyllo dough. What could be better?
The filling was very easy to make. It fills the house with the savory scent of sautéd onion and the spinach is generously fluffed up with both feta and parmesan cheese. Ina suggests buying frozen spinach, thawing it and squeezing the water out. Make SURE you do so or else you end up with an extremely soggy pie. Yuck. I just threw the spinach into a small coliander and pressed a bowl down on top of it. Worked like a charm.
After I mixed everything together, I pulled the phyllo dough out of the fridge and promptly unrolled one entire roll. Note: This was my first experience with phyllo dough. Ina forgets to mention to FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS ON THE BOX! I was just reading her recipe, assuming everything I would need to know was right there. I should have known better. Who doesn’t read the instructions on the box?? So. Make sure to follow the instructions about your phyllo dough or you will end up with a dry, brittle sheet of pastry that feels like paper and breaks at the slightest touch. You will have to scramble (as I did) to save it. Had I read the instructions, I would have seen that I should unroll only one sheet at a time and cover the rest with a towel, while brushing the one I had pulled off the roll with butter immediately to keep it moist. Not just leave them on the counter and then line the pan when you get around to it…
I was not prepared. It was shameful. I hadn’t even melted my butter yet and had already started laying the dough sheets in my pan. It may seem obvious to brush the butter on before laying them down in the pan but I had gotten ahead of myself. However, I got some butter on them soon enough to save them and set to work quickly with the rest. The reason it is so important for them to stay moist in this particular recipe is because the layer of dough underneath the filling ends up being folded over the top and creating the crust! If they dry out, they will most likely crack in half, failing to seal in the spinach and cheese. I speak from experience. However, I had managed to butter enough in time that I successfully folded over most of my edges and covered the filling.
Slide the pan straight into a 375˚ oven for an hour. Halfway through I was dying! My whole house filled with the scent of baking pastry. Once I took it out, I was supposed to wait until it cooled to room temp but I’m sorry to say, I can be quite impatient when it comes to food (also driving but that’s besides the point). I took a bite while it was still warm and it was absolutely worth it.
Instead of regular pie dough, the phyllo dough gives the pie quite a unique look as well as a crisp texture and light, airy taste in perfect contrast with the soft, rich filling.
Once again, Ina Garten has created a simple dish to make yet a delightfully complex tasting masterpiece that will tickle the tastebuds and delight every guest at the dinner table. Also, I find this pie a great excuse to eat copious amounts of crumbly feta and shredded parmesan. The spinach part is healthy right??
Prep: 20 min
Cook: 1 hr 15 min
- 3 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
- 2 tablespoons good olive oil
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 3 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
- 6 extra-large eggs, beaten
- 2 teaspoons grated nutmeg
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 3 tablespoons plain dry bread crumbs
- 1/2 pound good feta, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1/2 cup pignoli (pine nuts)
- 1/4 pound salted butter, melted
- 6 sheets phyllo dough, defrosted
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- In a medium saute pan on medium heat, saute the onions with the olive oil until translucent and slightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the salt and pepper and allow to cool slightly.
- Squeeze out and discard as much of the liquid from the spinach as possible. Put the spinach into a bowl and then gently mix in the onions, eggs, nutmeg, Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, feta, and pignoli.
- Butter an ovenproof, nonstick, 8-inch saute pan and line it with 6 stacked sheets of phyllo dough, brushing each with melted butter and letting the edges hang over the pan. Pour the spinach mixture into the middle of the phyllo and neatly fold the edges up and over the top to seal in the filling. Brush the top well with melted butter. Bake for 1 hour, until the top is golden brown and the filling is set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Serve at room temperature.