Matzoh ball soup gets extra flavor from one simple step

I am passionate about making sure that everyone who visits my house has plenty to eat and doesn’t feel left out just because they have an allergy or a dietary restriction. Which means I have learned that my favorite food of all time, classic matzoh ball soup, can be made successfully without chicken.

Today I am so pleased to share my vegetarian version of the soup, full of what I hope are the best matzoh balls you’ve ever had. This soup can be made during Passover, which starts April 22, or anytime you want a pot of soulful soup.

Get the recipe: Matzoh Ball Soup With Vegetables, Chickpeas and Herbs

I cannot make matzoh ball soup without thinking of my Aunt Renee, one of my mother’s sisters, who taught me everything I know about how to fill a table with food. How to feel abundance. My mother’s parents fled Eastern Europe during the pogroms, and my mother and her sisters all found different ways of channeling that eternal anxiety. For Aunt Renee, it was cooking more food than she needed at all times. No matter what happened, if you were near her, you would not be hungry.

Aunt Renee made the best chicken soup, and she made it so often that her apartment always smelled like it. I’m sure there was chicken fat in her curtains. She died when I was in college. I wrote an obituary for her in the New York Times that said, “I’ll take care of the soup.”

I have a feeling she’d still enjoy this chicken-less version, though. Especially because my matzoh ball recipe is based on hers. But there’s one small change: Instead of just mixing the matzoh meal with eggs, a little seltzer and oil, I take an extra step. First, I toast the matzoh meal in oil. These toasted crumbs take on a nutty, rich flavor, just like the difference between a plain piece of white bread and a piece of buttered toast. Then, I mix everything together. I season the mix with salt and a little bit of chopped parsley, more for color than anything else.

A few things to keep in mind if you’ve never made matzoh balls:

  • The mixture needs to sit in the fridge for at least 45 minutes before you form and cook them. (The mixture can be refrigerated in a container for up to a few days.) Chilling is essential, because it allows the matzoh meal to absorb the liquid from the eggs and seltzer and get firm and easy to roll. If you try to form matzoh balls immediately after making the mix, it won’t work. So don’t do that! Wait. It’s worth it.
  • Before you roll the matzoh balls, wet your hands with cold water. Then the mixture won’t stick to your hands.
  • Cook the matzoh balls in a separate pot of water — not directly in the soup. This ensures that they don’t cloud the broth, which should be, as Aunt Renee would always tell me, “as clear as crystal.”

My final note about this recipe is that the last step is crucial. Adding not only fresh herbs (parsley and dill) to the soup, but also raw, minced garlic, is the difference between okay vegetable soup and extraordinary vegetable soup. For what it’s worth, this is something I also do with chicken soup. That hit of garlic right at the end makes a huge impact.

Get the recipe: Matzoh Ball Soup With Vegetables, Chickpeas and Herbs

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