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Spanakopita Nistisimi (Lenten) from Cyprus

Spanakopita nistisimi image


Spanakopita Nistisimi (Lenten) is a Cypriot version of a vegan spinach pie which I remember eating when living in Cyprus but not the exact recipe. .

Yesterday I went to the farmers’ market again and among other things I bought the necessary ingredients to make Spanakopita.

When I cook I always like to improvise and add my own touch to the recipe or maybe something I saw in another recipe and I kept somewhere in the back of my mind waiting to be processed.

I was planning to make the classical type of spanakopita I always make but whilst I was washing the spinach I kept thinking about other ways of making a Lenten version (without eggs and dairy products). The spinach was more than a kilo, I had bought spring onions, dill, parsley and silverbeet. (The silverbeet was intended to be cooked tomorrow with black eyed beans).

I’ve seen on Greek T.V. food shows women in the rural areas making hortopitta (a spinach pie mixed with several types of wild greens). Of course it’s rather difficult to get some wild greens in Athens but if I had planned this I could have found some at the farmers’ market. Anyway, as I had the silverbeet, that gave me the idea instead of using wild greens to experiment and add the silverbeet in the recipe. I would still make the usual one just in case it didn’t turn out good but this was a good opportunity for me to recreate a Lenten spanakopita I ate years ago in Cyprus but I did not know anything else about the recipe. I decided to make a small one by combining a couple of other Cypriot recipes. The classical spanakopita was the base for this one, the Cypriot bulgur pilaf with the bulgur wheat and vermicelli and finally from Kolokotes (the pumpkin pies) the almonds and raisins (but I did not have almonds so I used walnuts instead).

The final result was fantastic. Usually, when eating nistisimi spanakopita it’s like eating a crust and a spinach filling which although aromatic by the herbs is still too much to each all that green inside. We do eat the usual Lenten version but it’s something we have to eat but don’t really enjoy. Here you have a filling with the bulgur wheat and vermicelli, which is by itself something tasty and you get a bite with a sweet raisin here and there and a bite of a walnut and all mixed together with the crunchy phyllo.

I am submitting this recipe to Chris, of Mele Cotte, who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer seven years ago. Chris is hosting the event Cooking to Combat Cancer 2, so let’s all contribute to this wonderful event by submitting a healthy recipe. The deadline for this event is by the end of this month so there is plenty of time to prepare and submit a healthy recipe.


Spanakopita Nistisimi for Lent (Cyprus)

Preparation time: about 45 Minutes

Baking time: about 1 hour


Hand made phyllo (see step by step instruction here)

1 kilo spinach

1 bunch of silverbeet

1 medium onion, finely chopped

8 spring onions, finely chopped

½ cup of parsley, finely chopped

½ cup of dill, finely chopped

2 vermicelli nests

½ cup of bulgur wheat

½ cup of coarsely cut walnuts

½ cup of olive oil

2 – 3 spoonfuls of sultana raisins


  1. See link above for detailed instructions on how to make phyllo from scratch.
  2. Wash spinach and silver beet and cut the stems, leaving only the most tender ones. Place into a big pan, without water, and bring to a boil for about 10 minutes. They will become soft and their volume will be reduced. Place them in a colander to cool down and when they can be handled drain any water by squeezing them. Cut them into smaller pieces.
  3. Add oil to skillet and sauté the onions until they have become soft but not caramelized. Add the vermicelli breaking them into small pieces and stir a couple of times, add bulgur wheat and also stir until becoming darker in colour. Add spinach in and stir. Finally add walnuts and sultanas. Let in cool down and mix in parsley and dill and stir.
  4. Oil a baking tin and roll out the phyllo. You can either make a big round tin or you can roll out phyllo in the pasta machine.
  5. For strifti (twisted) cut phyllo in two pieces and join them together. See instructions here.  Place on the big side the filling and make it into a roll. Take both ends and twist a couple times into the opposite direction. Place into baking tin. When you finish with the procedure brush some oil and butter on top and sprinkle sesame seeds on top.
  6. If you are making homemade phyllo, don’t forget to brush each phyllo with olive oil and to sc0re the top.
  7. Bake in a preheated oven to 180ο until golden, for about 1 hour depending on your oven.

Kopiaste and Kali Orexi!

signature Ivy

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26 Responses

  1. Ben

    That spanakopita is the real deal, and not the spinach pie I made the other day. Hehehe. I love the personal touches you gave this dish.

    Keep up the great work 😀

  2. Peter M

    It’s amazing how us Greeks can be creative for Great Lent, with dishes like nistimi pita. We always like adding the sesame seeds on too.

    As for your “hand made” phyllo, isn’t that a misnomer being that you used a pasta machine to make the phyllo?

  3. Ivy

    Well, I didn’t use my feet to make it, so it is hand made, even with a pasta machine and not a rolling pin. Why use the rolling pin when I have a Kenwood Major Chef to do the job for me.

  4. Ivy

    Ben, your spanakopita was great. You did a great job.

  5. Peter G

    Bravo Ivy…I like the creativity behind this pita with the addition of nuts, vermicelli and raisins. Hand rolled or not the filo looks great. You cant beat the Kenwood can you?

  6. Ivy

    Well, it’s nice to record traditions, but we are in the 21st century, aren’t we?

  7. Núria

    Ivy your dishes always provoque a big noise in my belly ;-). You are such a great cook… could I have some space in your table? Pleaseeee? 😀

  8. Rosie

    Ivy you always amaze me with every post I read 🙂 Your spanakopita looks stunning and I can just imagine how delicious this must taste!! Thank you for sharing with us 🙂

    Rosie x

  9. Ivy

    Nuria, Kopiaste is the most suitable word for an answer.

  10. Ivy

    Thank you Rosie, but I think it’s just a matter of experience.

  11. Chris

    All looks wonderful! I love the combo of flavors here. My best friend growing up was Greek and I loved going to her house for her mom’s cooking. Wow – I miss those days!(Last I heard she was living in Thessaloniki.) thanks for participating in CCC2. It will be wonderful in the mix.

  12. Ivy

    Thanks sis. That’s good that you finally found rennet. Thanks for the compliment.

  13. Bellini Valli

    That’s an amazing spanakopita!! By the way…I also found some rennet at the Italian grocers. They just received a load of it in…there may be halloumi in my future yet:D Also I like your new photo..you’re hair is getting much longer:D

  14. Ivy

    Hi Chris, I visited Thessaloniki recently. I have written about it if you want to learn about Thessaloniki here is the link https://www.kopiaste.org/2008/03/northern-greece-part-ii-serres-chalidiki-thessaloniki-athens/

  15. Cynthia

    One of these days I have to come visit just so that I can enjoy your delicious food 🙂

  16. Laurie Constantino

    Great creativity, Ivy. It sounds absolutely wonderful and is definitely hand made filo, no question about it!

  17. Ivy

    Cynthia, I wish there was a magical way I could have you as well as other friends from the blogosphere over for dinner.

    Laurie, I thank you for agreeing. Even if it’s on a pasta machine the final result is the same.

  18. Maria V

    i can imagine just how delicious that pie must be – i like all spinach pies, and you are right – we like the crust of lenten pies, but not so much stuffing our mouth with so much filling. i think the vermicelli idea was a very good one – i’ll add to my own lenten spinach pie next time: http://organicallycooked.blogspot.com/2008/03/spanakopita-spiral-for-lent.html

  19. Ivy

    Thanks Maria.

  20. Cakelaw

    These look brilliant Ivy, and definitely very healthy with all of that greenery.

  21. inside the box

    The directions and pictures are so good. I can’t wait to try this. I just stumbled on this site from great cooks and am so glad I did. We have one greek restaurant here, and it is my favorite place, but the chef keeps her recipes under lock and key! Thanks

  22. Ivy

    Welcome, inside the box, nice to meet you. The restaurant owners and chefs tend to do that everywhere but here we are revealing everything:-)

  23. Mary

    Oh Ivy this looks great! I love bulgur and spinach and I’m sure this is delicious!

  24. Ivy

    Thank you Mary, I am glad you think it is good.

  25. Heather

    Whoa, Ivy. This looks like a flaky, spinachy stromboli. I wish I had a whole tray of them RIGHT NOW!

  26. Ivy

    A tray is in the mail for you Heather (wish it could be done).