Memories of Passover with a Modern Twist

chef table

Matzah balls evoke special memories for most people. In our family, everyone’s favorite part of the chicken soup is that wonderful white matzah ball floating in the center of the bowl.

In addition to soup and matzah balls, there’s always brisket, kugel and potatoes in some form on my family’s Passover menu. I hope you enjoy this scrumptious selection of Passover recipes, updated for today’s modern palate. Happy Passover!

Yields about 2 1/2 dozen

The kneidlach controversy continues each Passover—some like them hard, some like them soft, some like them somewhere in between. It all depends on what is traditional in your family. These matzah balls (kneidlach) are light and tender and are a favorite in my family and with my readers. If you prefer them firmer, just add a little extra matzah meal to the mixture.

3 1/4 cups matzah meal
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
9 or 10 large eggs (measure 2 cups eggs)
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup water (or 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup club soda or seltzer)

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine matzah meal, salt and pepper. Add eggs and process for 10 to 15 seconds. Pour oil and water through the feed tube while the machine is running. Process the mixture for 20 to 30 seconds longer, until fairly smooth. The mixture will be loose.

Transfer mixture to large bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Mixture will thicken.

Fill 2 large soup pots halfway with water. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt to each pot. Bring to a boil.

Wet your hands and shape mixture into 2-inch balls. Drop into boiling liquid. Cover partially and simmer for 45 to 55 minutes, until light, puffed and cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon and arrange in a single layer in an oblong casserole. (May be prepared in advance, covered and refrigerated until shortly before serving time.)

Serve in hot chicken soup.

Note: These freeze well.

Slice leftover matzah balls 1/2-inch thick. Sauté 1 or 2 sliced onions in a little oil until golden. Add matzah balls, sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika. Brown matzah ball slices on both sides until golden. (Also delicious if you sauté mushrooms along with the onions.)


Chef’s Secretschefs secrets

  • Cooked matzah balls can be added to chicken soup and frozen in freezer-safe containers, leaving 2 inches at the top for expansion.


  • Matzah balls can be prepared in advance. Prepare the mixture, then refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. Wet your hands, shape the mixture into balls and arrange in a single layer on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Freeze until firm. Transfer to freezer bags, seal tightly and store in the freezer. When needed, cook frozen matzah balls in boiling salted water as directed above, adding an extra 5 minutes to the cooking time.


Yields about 1 1/2 dozen

My gluten-free kneidlach are made with mashed potatoes and potato starch—not a drop of matzah meal in sight! As an added bonus, they are nut-free and vegetarian, unlike most gluten-free kneidlach which are made with either ground almonds or minced chicken.

2 russet (Idaho) potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks (you need 2 cups mashed)
2 eggs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons additional potato starch
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill or parsley (or 2 teaspoons dried)

Place potatoes in a saucepan, cover with lightly salted water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, covered, until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain well.

Return drained potatoes to saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute to evaporate any excess moisture.

Mash potatoes until smooth and lump-free. Measure 2 cups and transfer them to a mixing bowl. Cool slightly.

Add eggs, oil, salt, pepper, potato starch and dill. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Gently form chilled mixture into walnut-sized balls, wetting your hands often for easier handling.

Add kneidlach to rapidly boiling water. They will float to the top in about 2 minutes. Continue cooking for 6 to 8 minutes until cooked all the way through.

Remove with a slotted spoon and store in a single layer in an oblong casserole. (May be prepared in advance, covered and refrigerated until serving time.)

Serve in hot chicken soup or vegetable soup.

Note: Do not freeze.

Saucy Brisket Photos: Doug Gilletz

Saucy Brisket
Photos: Doug Gilletz

Yields 12 servings

This scrumptious, saucy brisket is ideal when you’re having a large crowd and can be prepared in advance, making it perfect for Passover. The sauce mixture is also excellent for veal brisket or stewing beef. This tender, tasty dish is sure to become a family favorite—be sure to check out the variations below.

2 large onions, sliced
1 beef brisket (about 5 pounds/2.3 kg), well-trimmed
3 cloves garlic (about 1 tablespoon minced) or 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
Salt, freshly ground black pepper and paprika
1 cup duck sauce (try Szechuan spicy duck sauce)
3/4 cup tomato sauce
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or orange juice
3/4 cup water

Spray a large roasting pan with cooking spray. Spread onions in bottom of pan and place brisket on top. Sprinkle both sides of brisket with garlic, basil, salt, pepper and paprika.

In a medium bowl, combine duck sauce, tomato sauce and balsamic vinegar; mix well. Spread sauce evenly on top of brisket. Pour water around and underneath brisket and cover pan tightly with foil. (If you have time, marinate brisket for an hour at room temperature or up to 48 hours in the refrigerator.)

Preheat oven to 325° F. Cook brisket, covered, for about 4 hours (calculate 45 minutes per pound), until tender. During the last hour of cooking, slightly loosen foil and baste meat occasionally.

When done, remove pan from oven and cool completely. Cover pan and refrigerate overnight.

Remove congealed fat from the surface. Slice brisket thinly across the grain, trimming away any fat. Place slices and gravy in a covered casserole dish and reheat in a 350° F oven for 25 to 30 minutes before serving.

Note: Keeps for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator; reheats and/or freezes well.


1. Substitute jellied cranberry sauce for duck sauce.

2. Use ketchup or barbecue sauce instead of tomato sauce.

3. Instead of water, use red wine.

4. For a sweet-and-sour flavor, add 2 tablespoons honey.


Spray the slow cooker with cooking spray. Reduce water to 1/3 cup—you need less water in the slow cooker, as there is little evaporation. Place a sheet of parchment paper on top of the meat to hold in the steam. Cook on high for 1 hour, then on low until tender, about 8 to 10 hours. Some briskets may take up to 12 hours to cook. You can make any brisket recipe, stew or pot roast in the slow cooker using this method.

chefs secrets

Chef’s Secrets

  • Flat or Point? Beef brisket is divided into two sections. The flat cut has less fat and is usually more expensive than the point, which is much fattier and also more flavorful. A double brisket has a thick layer of fat between the two sections.


  • Reduce the Fat: Ask your butcher to trim away excess fat. Cook brisket a day in advance and refrigerate overnight. Remove congealed fat before slicing and reheating.


  • Double-Size Brisket? Don’t double the time! If your brisket is very large (8 to 10 pounds/3.6 to 4.5 kg), cut it crosswise into two smaller briskets (4 to 5 pounds/1.8 to 2.3 kg each). Cook them together in a large roaster for 3 to 4 hours, until tender.


  • Overnight Method: Cook brisket, tightly covered, in a 225°F oven for 7 to 8 hours. (Put the pan with the brisket into the oven just before going to bed and remove it first thing in the morning.) Use this method if you don’t have a slow cooker.


Spaghetti Squash "Noodle" Pudding

Spaghetti Squash “Noodle” Pudding


Yields 10 to 12 servings

Spaghetti squash pulls into strands like spaghetti noodles, yet it has its own unique flavor. This recipe will have your guests guessing as to what the mysterious ingredient is!

3 pounds (1.2 kg) spaghetti squash (approximately)
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium zucchini, finely grated
2 medium carrots, finely grated
4 eggs
1/2 cup matzah meal
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil (or 1 teaspoon dried)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350° F. Cut squash in half. Place cut-side down on a sprayed foil-lined pan.

Bake about 45 minutes, until tender. (Alternatively, do not cut squash in half. Pierce it in several places with a fork. Microwave on high until tender, 15 to 18 minutes, turning it over at half-time. Let stand 15 minutes. Cut in half and let cool.)

Preheat oven to 375° F. Spray a 2-quart rectangular or oval casserole dish with nonstick spray.

In a nonstick skillet, sauté onions and garlic in oil for 5 minutes. Add zucchini and carrots and cook over medium heat until tender-crisp, about 5 minutes longer, stirring often. If necessary, add a little water to prevent burning or sticking. Cool slightly.

Discard pulp and squash seeds. Use a fork to pull out strands of squash.

In a large mixing bowl, combine squash with remaining ingredients; season to taste.

Transfer mixture to prepared casserole dish. Bake at 375° F for 50 to 60 minutes, until golden.

Note: Reheats and/or freezes well.

chefs secrets


Chef’s Secrets

  • This is delicious as a dairy dish served with Greek yogurt or sour cream.


  • Cooked spaghetti squash is excellent served as an alternative to pasta during Passover. Top the strands of spaghetti squash with tomato sauce and sprinkle with grated cheese, if desired.


  • For short noodle-like strands, cut spaghetti squash lengthwise before baking. For long spaghetti-like strands, cut squash crosswise into 3/4-inch rings and arrange in a single layer in prepared pan. Bake as directed above. Cool slightly. Scoop out and discard pulp and squash seeds. Use a fork to pull out long strands from each squash ring.


Norene Gilletz is the author of nine cookbooks and divides her time between work as a food writer, culinary consultant, spokesperson, cooking instructor, lecturer and editor. Norene lives in Toronto, Canada. For more information, visit her web site at or e-mail her at

This article was featured in the Spring 2015 issue of Jewish Action.
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