Mina de Espinaca (Spinach, Cheese and Matzo Pie). Photo by Penny De Los Santos.
“In many Sephardic households, it is impossible to conceive of Passover without a mina,” writes Gil Marks in the “Encyclopedia of Jewish Food.” The lasagna-like dish can be made with meat or vegetarian fillings like this one with spinach, cheese, and potatoes from Alexandra Zohn’s family who moved from Izmir, Turkey to Mexico City around 1920. The dish is perfect as a main dish at a vegetarian Passover or as a hearty dinner during the week of the holiday.
1 pound (2 large bunches) baby spinach, regular spinach or defrosted frozen spinach, finely chopped
About 8 plain matzo sheets (7-inch x 7-inch squares)
1 ½ tablespoons + 1 teaspoon olive oil or vegetable oil, divided
Place the potatoes into a pot. Cover with room temperature water and 1 tablespoon of salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, until the potatoes can be easily pierced with a knife. Drain the potatoes and cool for about 5 minutes until the potatoes are still warm but easier to handle and peel the potatoes. Discard the peels.
Make the “gomo” or potato mixture: Mash the potatoes with a potato ricer or fork into a large bowl until the potato mixture is smooth with no chunks. Add 1 ½ teaspoons of salt, ¾ cup of parmesan cheese, 1 block of cream cheese and the beaten eggs into the potatoes. Mix well with a spatula until the mixture is smooth and uniform. Set aside.
Make the spinach mixture: Place the chopped spinach into a large bowl and add ¼ cup of parmesan cheese and 1 teaspoons of salt. Mix until the salt and cheese are evenly distributed with the spinach. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 10-inch circular springform baking pan with 1 teaspoon of oil.
Fill a container large enough to fit one matzo sheet, with water halfway up to the rim and ¼ teaspoon of salt . Soak the eight matzos, one matzo at a time in the water for about 30 seconds, until each sheet is flexible yet still firm enough to hold its shape. Gently place each soaked matzo onto a kitchen or paper towel and remove any excess moisture. Set aside.
Assemble the mina: Line the bottom of the baking pan with two matzos, one on top of the other. Trim any edges as needed and use the matzo trims to fill up any gaps. Evenly spread half of the spinach-parmesan mixture on top of the matzos. Add another double layer of moistened matzos on top of the spinach, gently press the matzos into the spinach layer to make space for the remaining layers. Spread the second half of the spinach mixture over the matzo layer. Place another double layer of matzo over the second spinach layer. Gently press the matzos into the spinach to make room for the remaining layer. Spread the potato mixture evenly over the matzo layer. Use the back of a spoon or an offset spatula to make swirls on the surface of the potatoes to brown evenly in the oven. Sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup of the parmesan cheese on top of the potato mixture and drizzle 1 ½ tablespoons of oil on top.
Transfer the assembled mina into the oven and bake for about 35 to 45 minutes until the mina is deeply golden brown. Allow the mina to cool for about 5 minutes. Run the tip of a sharp knife along the outside edges of the mina to separate it from the pan.