Shabbat took on extra significance at my house during the pandemic. Differentiating the workweek from the day of rest became critical when everything was blurring into sameness. And I reverted to the comfort foods of my childhood, finding respite in the familiar smells of old favorites.
One week I was making matzah balls “from scratch” like my mother taught me and like my grandmother taught her (scratch your head and follow the instructions on the box of matzah meal), when it hit me: These are basically Askenazi dumplings — why aren’t we filling them?
I did some internet research and discovered I wasn’t the only one asking. Some sources suggested there was a Lithuanian tradition of stuffing matzah balls, which warmed me. I grew up with my Polish family, but there was a rift among my Lithuanians. My query became a mission to create what might have been a lost family recipe.
I did some experimenting and landed on a simple ground beef filling spiced with cinnamon. They’re reminiscent of kreplach, but much easier to make. If you can make a matzah ball, you can stuff a matzah ball. B’tai-a-vohn!
Stuffed Matzah Balls
1 tbsp oil, preferably safflower or grapeseed
⅓ lb ground beef
2 large egg yolks
2 tbsp matzah meal
⅛ tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Heat the oil in a skillet, add meat and saute until cooked through
Drain in a colander and cool
Transfer meat to a mixing bowl and use a fork to thoroughly mix in yolks, matzah meal, salt, and cinnamon
Chill for at least one hour
Any matzah ball recipe will do. For fluffier matzah balls: replace water and up to half oil with sparkling water. Here’s my recipe, augmented from the Streit’s box.
4 large eggs
¼ cup sparkling water
¼ cup oil (safflower or grapeseed preferred), replace up to half oil with sparkling water
1 tsp salt
Pinch ground pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup matzah meal
In a mixing bowl, whisk eggs
Whisk in sparkling water, oil, salt, pepper, and cinnamon
Add matzah meal and combine thoroughly with a fork
Chill for at least 30 minutes
In a large pot, boil water with some cut carrots, celery, and palms with cold water throughout to keep matzah mix from sticking to your hands.
Prep all matzah balls, then drop into boiling water
Cover pot with lid
Reduce heat to simmer until cooked through, about 20 minutes
Remove with a slotted spoon
Serve in your broth of choice. For Passover, I serve them in zucchini puree thinned with a simple broth, the green color reminiscent of springtime. But they’re a hit all year and shine in chicken or vegetable broth with vegetables from the matzah ball simmer pot.
To reheat, simmer in the broth for 15 minutes before serving.