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This Rosh Hashanah, Why Not Stuff Your Matzo Balls?

In the great Matzo Ball Debate, the classic conflict is between fans of floaters and sinkers.
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by Adina Steiman, photo by Linda Pugliese


In the great Matzo Ball Debate, the classic conflict is between fans of floaters and sinkers (sort of like the Jewish holiday version of David Letterman's "Will it Float" segment).

But in my family, another, more stealthy (but no less important!) controversy exists: Between Ashkenazi fans of matzo balls and Sephardic fans of chicken meatballs in soup. I can sympathize with both schools of thought: Like the noodles in chicken soup, matzo balls are perfect for absorbing the flavors of chicken broth while adding a soothing chewiness. But on the other hand, chicken meatballs in chicken soup offer a delicious culinary redundancy: double the chicken flavor.

I'm happy to report that now, thanks to this brand-new matzo ball soup recipe, there's no need to choose.

In our brand-new, Israeli-inspired Rosh Hashanah menu (which also features amazing recipes from Yotam Ottolenghi and Michael Solomonov), genius spice maven and intrepid cook Lior Lev Sercarz has engineered a great leap forward in matzo-ball technology--a hybrid version that combines the best of both worlds (aka one that pleases both me and my brother-in-law).

Here, an almond-scented ground chicken filling is enrobed in a matzo-meal coating. The result? Like chocolate and peanut butter, these two great tastes are better together. And to make things even more festive, Sercarz includes sauteed Calvados-spiked apples in the soup. Rosh Hashanah just got a little sweeter.


Nigella seeds can be hard to find; look for them in Indian or Middle Eastern markets, or find them easily online at


For the matzo ball dough:
  • 1 1/4 cups matzo meal
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely ground cubed pepper (available from or black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon nigella or black-sesame seeds
  • 1 large egg
For the filling:
  • 1/4 pound ground chicken
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground fennel
  • 1/2 teaspoon orgeat (almond syrup), or 1 drop almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the broth:
  • 1/3 cup olive oil or rendered chicken schmaltz
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cut into 1-inch matchsticks
  • 2 Golden Delicious apples, peeled and cut into 1-inch matchsticks
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons Calvados (apple brandy)
  • 3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, for serving
  • 2 teaspoons nigella or black-sesame seeds, for garnish


Make the matzo balls: In a medium bowl, combine the matzo meal, oil, salt, pepper, and nigella seeds. Add 1 cup boiling water and mix well to incorporate. Add the egg, incorporating quickly to avoid partially cooking it. Using wet hands, form the dough into 12 equal-size disks and reserve.

In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, fennel, orgeat or almond extract, salt, and pepper. Using wet hands, form the mixture into 12 equal-size balls. Place a ball of filling on a matzo-meal disk and pinch and roll the edges together to form a ball. Repeat with remaining filling and matzo-meal disks.

Cook the matzo balls: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Gently add the stuffed matzo balls, reduce heat, cover, and simmer until matzo balls are cooked through and float, 20 to 25 minutes.

Cook the apples: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the apples and sauté until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the Calvados and stir, scraping up any bits on the bottom of the pan, until most of the Calvados has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Remove apples from pan and reserve.

Assemble the soup: In a pot, heat the broth until just simmering. Divide the apples among four soup bowls, then ladle broth and matzo balls into each bowl. Garnish with nigella seeds before serving.