How to make matzo balls and chicken broth for Passover Seder

Bowl of Jewish matzo balls soup. Credit: Kurman Communications, Inc. (CC BY 2.0).

COVID-19 is preventing many families from meeting for Passover, but Evan Kleiman, host of KCRW’s Good Food, is bringing Seder to you. 

This week, she is sharing her recipe for matzo balls, a traditional food for this Jewish holiday. Leavened breads are avoided over the eight days of Passover.

Growing up, Kleiman was often teased by her mother over where she found inspiration for her recipe. When she was 10 years old, she found a recipe from Gourmet magazine, which recommended adding nutmeg to the dough. 

“My mother tormented me about it my entire cording to time, life. The fact that I was making matzo balls from Gourmet magazine, everybody thought it was absolutely hilarious. But what I was left with was this idea of nutmeg in matzo balls -- it’s wonderful, that lovely warming fragrance,” she says. 

If you’re craving matzo ball soup, Kleiman says chicken broth makes a good pairing with matzo balls, whether that’s a pre-packaged broth or a stock made from scratch. 

She opts for making a broth from scratch, with unpeeled onions, carrots and celery. The key, however, is adding parsnips to the broth. 

“If you have a parsnip, that to me, makes it taste like Jewish chicken broth,” she notes.

Kleiman recommends this recipe

Evan Kleiman’s Matzo Balls

1 cup matzo meal
4 eggs
1/4 cup water, still or sparkling
1/4 cup rendered duck fat or schmaltz (liquified for measuring purposes)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1-2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley leaves
A few scrapings of fresh nutmeg (don’t go overboard, a little goes a long way)

Put the matzo meal in a bowl. Beat together the eggs, water, fat, salt, pepper and parsley. Pour over the matzo meal and stir. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour and up to overnight.

To cook the balls:

Bring a pot of water to boil and lightly salt it.

Form the balls, remembering that they will at least double in size and possibly triple. I make them about the size of a small walnut. If you like “floaters,” then barely form them into shape, being careful not to compress too much. The more you roll the ball in your hand, the more you compress the dumpling, then the more likely you will have a “sinker.”

In fact, for the lightest balls, don’t make balls. Instead, use two spoons to make a rough quenelle (oval) shape by using one spoon to grab some batter, then pushing the batter off the spoon into the simmering water with the second spoon.

After the water boils, turn it to a simmer. As you shape the balls, immediately drop them into the water. When they are all in the water, bring the water to a simmer and cover the pot. Cook for a minimum of 30 minutes. I find that to cook all the way through and be really light, they need to cook longer, almost 45 minutes.

While they are cooking, keep the lid on the pot sealed tightly. What basically happens is that each matzo ball becomes its own pressure cooker, and that’s what keeps them super fluffy.

After 30 minutes, test one by cutting it in half. If the inside is still very yellow like the batter, then it needs to cook more. 

Meanwhile, bring your soup to a simmer. 

As the balls are done, fish them out of the water and plop them into the soup. 

Why don’t you just cook them in soup? Well you would need a gallon of soup instead of a quart. Those little guys are very thirsty. Let them sit for a minute in the soup to pick up more flavor, then serve.

Store the matzo balls for the next day — submerged in the remaining cooking water. I’ll bet you end up eating them with no soup.

—Written by Danielle Chiriguayo and Amy Ta, produced by Alex Tryggvadottir