Historically, matzo is the symbolic food of Passover. But let’s be honest: Matzo ball soup is the holiday’s truly iconic dish.
Before boxed matzo meal appeared at the turn of the last century, cooks made humble dumplings knows as kneidlich by pounding their matzos with a large wooden mortar and pestle, or by softening a whole sheet of matzo in water, adding a little sautéed onion, some eggs, a lot of schmaltz, maybe some soda water to add lightness.
Then, a recipe for “feather balls” in the “Alsatian style” appeared in Tempting Kosher Dishes, published in 1930 by the B. Manischewitz Co., and cooks began making lighter matzo balls. Baking powder with potato starch was soon added to become a pre-packaged matzo ball mix that, with rabbinical approval, made matzo balls even more effortless to make and airy at Passover.
But some people, like me, are still matzo ball purists, using either pulverized matzo or plain matzo meal instead of a mix from a box. Watch this video to see how I make matzo ball soup—the old fashioned way.
Joan Nathan is Tablet Magazine’s food columnist and the author of 10 cookbooks including King Solomon’s Table: a Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World.