Traditional Greek dishes pastitsio and spanikopita


by New Day Producers

Posted on October 19, 2012 at 1:01 PM

For more than 50 years, the St. Demitrios Greek Festival has been a fun Seattle tradition that takes place in Montlake every Fall. 

A celebration of Greek culture with dancing, music and shopping, there's also plenty of mouth-watering Greek food there.  The hardest part is trying to decide what to eat! 

Entertaining expert and chef Heather Christo shares two of the most popular and traditional dishes you'll find at the festival: pastitsio and spanikopita.

The Greek Festival took place September 21 - 23 at St. Demitrios Church in Seattle's Montlake neighborhood.  Visit the Seattle Greek Festival website for more details about this annual event.

To learn more about this and other delicious recipes, visit Heather Christo's blog.


Spanikopita, 20 servings
2 bunches spinach, rinsed well and dried
2 leeks,
2 bunches green onion
1 large onion
1/3 cup olive oil
8 eggs
1 cup cottage cheese
1.5 lbs feta
½ cup dill
1/3 cup cream of wheat* (Tula’s trick to keeping the filling from getting the filo soggy!)
Black Pepper

8 Tbs butter
½ cup olive oil

1 lb filo dough

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Get out a half sheet pan (16x12 from the inner lid- like  jelly roll pan with sides. see picture)

Finely slice the leeks and green onions and add to a large bowl.

Mince the onion and add to the bowl with the olive oil.

Finely shred the spinach with a sharp knife and add to the bowl.

Crack the eggs into a separate bowl, and then beat them until fluffy.

Add the cottage cheese, feta, dill and eggs to the bowl.

Mix well with clean hands, making sure to separate the rings of leek and green onion and mix the cottage cheese and feta in. Add black pepper (the feta should be salty enough). Add the cream of wheat and mix well.

Melt the butter and then add ½ cup olive oil to the melted butter.

Lay out your filo dough.

Butter the ½ sheet pan with the butter mixture. Tula’s technique was to do a generous figure 8 drizzle and then brush it in.

Peel a sheet of the filo dough off and lay it down the long way. (She was also very relaxed when she got a torn piece- I would freak out, and she didn’t care. Her technique to override the tears, is to just overlap the layers in the opposite direction so that the tears are covered.) Follow with another good drizzle and brush of butter.

With the next layer use two sheets of filo and cover half the pan with each sheet (the short way), overlapping in the middle. Another layer of butter.

Next time, lay the filo the long way and then brush with butter. So that is the pattern- the next layer is two sheets the short way again, and so on. Don’t forget the butter in between. There should be about 5 layers.

Add the filling to the top of the dough.

For the top, you will only lay the sheets the long way, with butter brushed in between each layer.

You want about three more layers on top, and then fold the extra filo edges over the top and brush them down with butter.

One final sheet is on top, with a heavy brushing of butter. (there will probably be a few sheets of filo left over)

Lightly slice the top into squares, and then into triangles.

Bake the spanikopita at 350 degrees for about an hour, until the filo is golden brown.

Slice through again and serve hot, (but it also delicious cold!)

1 lb pasta, (such as penne)

¼ cup olive oil
2lbs ground lamb
1 large onion, minced
6 garlic cloves
28oz tomato puree
2/3 cup flat leaf parsley, minced
½ tsp cinnamon

.75 lb feta
5 eggs
½ cup milk

Bechamel Sauce:
8Tbs butter
8Tbs flour
3 cups milk
4 eggs
1 cup parmesan
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Deep 9x13” pan, (like for a big lasagna)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Boil the pasta to al dente. When the pasta is cooked, drained and briefly rinse with cold water. Set aside.

In a large sauté pan, add the olive oil and heat over medium.

Add the lamb and break it up with a wooden spoon, cooking it through well.

Add the onions and garlic and cook with the lamb until soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, parsley and cinnamon and simmer about 20 minutes, or until most of the liquid has absorbed. The mixture should be thick.

Put the pasta in a large bowl.  Add the feta to the pasta.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs and milk until fluffy. Pour over the pasta and cheese and mix the pasta well.

Add a large scoop of the béchamel to the pasta and mix it in.

Bechamel Sauce:

In a pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat.

Add the flour and whisk it until there is a smooth roux.

Whisk in one cup of the milk.

Beat the eggs and 2 cups milk together until fluffy.

Add the egg/milk mixture a tiiiiny bit at a time. You just want the sauce to get thick, NOT to make scrambled eggs!!!

Add the cheese, whisking until smooth. Remove from heat.

Add the cinnamon, and season with salt and pepper.

To Assemble:

Place the baking dish on a sheet pan (in case béchamel bubbles over)

Pour pasta into baking dish.

Next comes a layer of the meat sauce.

On the very top is the béchamel sauce, which should come up to the very top.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Dish this up and serve it hot!