As a little girl, I had a neighbor who we called “Nana Louise.” She would start her preparation for Passover weeks before the actual date.
She would cook her chicken, save the fat, and always — with lots of hand gestures — explain to me about the chicken fat or “schmaltz,” as she called it. I just loved how Nana Louise said that in her thick Boston accent.
Nana Louise would spend hours chopping her veggies, making her “matzo balls,” and simmering her broth. Fast forward 30 years, and you can buy matzo in a box, chicken broth in a can, and even pre-chopped veggies if you want. Those shortcuts make this soup easy to make.
I hope the smell and taste of this soup, and imagining Nana Louise’s voice, will warm your heart, just as it does mine.
Not familiar with matzo? It is a thin unleavened bread made from flour and water. It has great significance on Passover because it represents the unleavened bread the Jews ate while fleeing Egypt. Matzo ball soup is traditionally made with matzo meal.
- 1 pkg. (4.5 oz) matzo ball mix (sold in supermarkets with kosher foods)
- 5 eggs
- ¾ cup vegetable oil
- 8 cups chicken broth
- 4 carrots, sliced
- 4 stalks of celery, sliced
- 1 Tablespoon chopped parsley
- 1 Tablespoon chopped dill
- 1 Tablespoon black pepper
Prepare the matzo ball mix according to the package directions (usually with 5 beaten eggs and ¾ cup of oil). Stir (I use a wooden spoon). Cover the meal and put it in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Wet your hand and carefully form the matzo ball mix into 1½-inch balls. Gently drop them into the boiling water. Put the lid on the pot and let cook for 20-25 minutes on medium.
In a separate pot, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Add the celery and carrots and cook for about 10 minutes. Once the matzo balls are done, add them to the pot of broth. Stir in the dill and parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve soup with veggies and a few matzo balls.
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The Seder plate See the traditional foods that go on a Seder plate, and what they mean.
Matzo ball soup is just one tradition at Seder dinner, typically held on the first night of Passover, which falls on April 15 this year. A Seder dinner includes reading, telling stories, singing, and eating special foods, including:
Bitter herbs: Conveys the bitterness and harshness of slavery, which Hebrews endured in Egypt.
Parsley and a bowl of salted water: Parsley represents the freshness of spring. Dipping it into the salted water denotes the tears of Hebrew slaves in Egypt.
Charoset: This yummy brown food traditionally made of chopped nuts, grated apples, cinnamon, and sweet red wine represents the mortar and brick used by the Hebrew slaves to build storehouses or pyramids of Egypt.
Roasted lamb shank bone: The lamb shank bone symbolizes the sacrifice of a lamb and the story of how enslaved Israelites painted blood on the doorways of their homes during the 10th plague so that God would pass by.
Roasted egg: Symbol of sacrifice and renewal.
Matzo: A plate of three whole matzo stacked but separated by cloths or napkins. The middle piece is broken, and half is hidden (children hunt for the hidden piece after the meal). The top and the other half of the middle piece are used for a blessing, and the bottom is used to make a sandwich with the bitter herbs.
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