A Vote for Matzoh Lasagna

Although skeptical of the outcome, I was determined to find out how a lasagna made with matzoh instead of noodles would translate at the table. If I could pull this off, I thought, my days of annoying lasagna noodles that never seem to cook evenly would be a thing of the past. Plus, it just might work as a meatless Passover main -- and think of the unleavened lunch leftovers.


Matzo lasagna with an arugula-ricotta filling. (Kim O'Donnel)

The source of my matzoh-ed inspiration is Miami chef Allen Susser, whose online recipe includes eggplant and zucchini. Ultimately, I decided to forego Susser's choice of summertime produce for something more seasonally appropriate and chose cool-weather crop arugula instead. (Spinach would be equally lovely, as would a ragout of spring mushrooms.) In fact, I was so taken by last month's arugula pesto I thought it would do my lasagna proud.

The short version of this story is that matzoh makes a delicious lasagna understudy. The caveat: All lasagna is time consuming and requires a steady hand for assembly. It's also important to remember that lasagna is one of those sum-of-its-parts dishes, and in order for it to avoid the land of bland, every component must be seasoned separately.

My biggest concern was that the "noodles" would transform into crackery mush, but the matzoh proved me wrong and instead mimicked the texture of properly cooked noodles. The whole package was lighter on the tongue (and the tummy) and I dare say, my exploratory mission was a success. Mister MA wants to know if he has to wait until next year for more, but there's no need. This is a lasagna for all seasons.

Recipe below the jump.

It's chat day; join me at noon ET for What's Cooking.

Today's Eco-Bite: Edible Communities is a consortium of 39 quarterly magazines (and counting) from Allegheny, Pa., to Vancouver, B.C., on locally-based eating, farming and shopping. It has become required reading for locavores. In your neck of the woods, the mag is gratis; to read what's Edible elsewhere, you must sign up and subscribe.

Matzoh Lasagna

Ingredients
Greens-Ricotta Filling
Approximately 2 bunches of arugula or spinach, thoroughly washed, stemmed and spun dry
3-5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1-3 tablespoons olive oil
Heat of chiles: 1/2 fresh red chile of choice, seeded, or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Note: This yields about 1 cup pesto, which is double the amount you'll need for one lasagna. The leftover pesto makes a great sandwich spread.

1/2 cup ricotta cheese, lightly beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
Approximately 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
12-16 ounces mozzarella cheese, sliced or shredded
At least 2 cups of your favorite marinara sauce
8-10 matzoh boards (less than one box)

Method
Prepare filling: Chop greens and reserve half. In a large skillet, heat garlic in olive oil for 15 seconds. Add half of the greens, toss with tongs to coat, cover and allow to wilt about two minutes.

Transfer wilted greens to the bowl of a food processor and puree. Add half of the reserved raw greens and blend to combine. Add nuts, if using, and blend until well integrated. Add chiles, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust accordingly. Add 1 tablespoon oil gradually so that pesto is somewhere between a sauce and a chutney. Scoop pesto out of food processor and measure out 1 cup of pesto to combine with ricotta cheese in a medium mixing bowl. Store remaining pesto in an airtight container in the refrigerator for another use.

In a small saucepan, heat marinara sauce until warm. Season with salt, pepper and herbs, as necessary.

Prepare matzoh: Wet each matzoh under warm running water to moisten. Stack damp matzohs on a plate and cover with a damp paper towel.

Grease a 9x13 rectangular baking dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Assemble lasagna: Spoon enough marinara sauce on bottom of dish to cover surface. Place two matzoh boards in dish, side by side, so that they're snug. With a rubber spatula, spread half of the greens-ricotta filling on top of matzoh, covering the surface, and add one-fourth of the mozzarella and Parmigiano.

Create a new layer with two matzohs and this time, spoon marinara sauce so it covers surface, followed by more cheese.

For the next layer, add two matzohs and the remaining greens-ricotta filling, then top with both cheeses.

The top layer is two final pieces of matzoh, covered with marinara sauce and any remaining cheese.

Place dish in oven and bake for 30-40 minutes. Cheese will begin to bubble. Remove from heat and allow to rest for a few minutes. Slice and eat immediately.

Makes 8-10 servings.

By Kim ODonnel |  April 15, 2008; 8:00 AM ET Jewish Holidays
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Comments

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Blech!

Posted by: Spike | April 15, 2008 8:50 AM

Oh, this sound delicious. I'm always looking for recipes to make during Passover for my Gentile husband. Guess I'll have to break out the food processor into my tiny kitchen (sigh).

Posted by: Laura | April 15, 2008 8:59 AM

The Edible Communities bit you posted said it was free in our area...where can we get it? The website doesn't seem to offer free copies at all.

Posted by: daetara | April 15, 2008 9:12 AM

Do you think it's possible to cut down the recipe? I cook for just myself and I know I'd end up throwing half of it away. I wonder how halving it would work out?

Posted by: Shia | April 15, 2008 9:17 AM

Hey Spike, Don't' knock it til you try it! As I mentioned, I was skeptical too, but it really did turn out well.
Daetara, I've found them in the front door areas of Whole Foods, and I'm pretty sure I've seen them at My Organic Market, Roots Market. The EC site says they're available at farm markets, too -- perhaps at info tables?

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | April 15, 2008 9:18 AM

Shia, I do think it's possible to half the recipe, yes. The trick, however, will be in fitting the matzohs. Everything else is pretty much improv, adding as much cheese, etc as you like, so halving would be fine. You could try a "broken" lasagna, too.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | April 15, 2008 9:21 AM

I make matzoh lasagna every year. I like your addition of the greens pesto and might try that this year. I have found that soaking the matzoh boards in a mixture of eggs beaten with water makes them even more like regular lasagna noodles. Like Mister MA, this is one dish my kids actually look forward to at passover.

Posted by: Amy | April 15, 2008 9:24 AM

I have see free copies of the Edible Communities magazine at the Foggy Bottom and Penn Quarter farmers' markets. I would assume they're also at Dupont.

Posted by: Allison | April 15, 2008 10:33 AM

I make a matza lasagna similar to that one. I use 2 cups of milk instead of the marinara for a white lasagna. Mine goes into an 8 x 8 pan and only uses about 4 or 5 sheets of matza. The other advantage of milk instead of marinara is I don't have to soak the matza (but I do cook the milk, ricotta and matza meal to thicken). It's smaller than yours, but it still makes about 8 healthy servings - it's really filling! The kids even like it.

Posted by: Mush | April 15, 2008 10:37 AM

This reminds me of my friend's recipe for pizza with a zucchini-matzah crush.

Posted by: mollyjade | April 15, 2008 11:55 AM

I take it you need to use good ol' traditional plain matzoh & not one of the new-fangled varieties (yolk-less, whole wheat, concord grape, etc.)?

Posted by: patricia | April 15, 2008 11:59 AM

You're dreaming. Its disgusting, FAKE food. Stop making fake food!

How hard is it to just make REAL foods, and avoid those that don't fit the menu of the day? There are plenty of un-tortured ideas in REAL cuisine that are yet to be explored.

I mean why not try a Ritz cracker lasagna for passover? Oh, its not kosher?

"PASSOVER LASAGNA"?

Lasagna has sausage in it, dear. Might as well accept that it isn't destined to be a passover dish from the gate, huh?

Here is how a food writer run amok goes about town:

"I haven't any good ideas about cross culturalism in the kitchen so I'll start "fusing" things.. hmmm...Let's replace the sausage with... Arugula!

Then we'll replace the noodles with matzoh!

Then we'll replace everything else good about lasagna with something else tortured!

Then I'll STILL call it "Lasagna"!

Now I'll put it in my column!

EW!


Next time stick with matzoh, some sauteed onion, and scramble it tohether with eggs -THAT works AND its kosher!

But you still can't call it LASAGNA!

Posted by: JBE | April 15, 2008 2:24 PM

Sheesh. One of the "roti" nuts escaped to the "lasagna" page.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 15, 2008 3:13 PM

Anon - I had the same reaction when I saw the title of this thread. Let the roti fly!

JBE - who says lasagna has to have a meat sauce? I love my lasagna bolonesa, but you can make a fine sauce with mushrooms. You're quite wrong that lasagna has sausage in it. A proper bolognese sauce should be made from ground beef, preferably chuck.

BB

Posted by: Fairlington Blade | April 15, 2008 3:23 PM

JBE (who really doesn't deserve a response), you might be interested to read a NY Times article from last Sunday about a Hassidic rabbi working for Manischewitz. The market for "alternative" Passover foods is booming & why not? From the article:

You might think a Hasidic rabbi would look askance at all these odd, seemingly nontraditional products clogging up aisles at Wal-Marts and Costcos and A.&P.s. But you would be wrong. It's the less observant Jews who tend to turn up their noses at the notion of kosher Spanish pilaf mix or white grape matzo, he said. The traditional Jews, he said, are just happy there are more kosher products. It's the process that has to be traditional, not the food that comes from it.

It's all part of the push-pull of the immigrant experience in America, one that has taken a turn with kosher food that few would have predicted in the '60s and '70s. So, for now, there's the matzo, the last link, Rabbi Horowitz says, that many Jews have with the world of their fathers. And there's the brave new world of kosher cook-offs making salmon primavera, chicken in balsamic cherry sauce and falafel pizza.

"Anything that makes people realize that it's fun, it's not difficult -- well, not too difficult -- to keep kosher is a good thing," he said. "We're living in good times that these things are happening."

Posted by: patricia | April 15, 2008 4:04 PM

For the poster to today's chat who wanted a hearty soup for Passover week, here's one that is Kosher for Passover and still great. My wife has been asking me to make it again:

Roasted Tomato & Red Pepper Soup

Roast approximately equal portions of red pepper and tomato with enough fresh garlic and onion (to taste). I roast the tomatoes, onion and garlic on a baking sheet in the oven with a touch of EVOO. I roast the red pepper on a fork over the gas stove burner and put them in a paper bag for 10-15 minutes to "steam" the skin off and then peel. Put all of the above into a blender with fresh herbs to taste (I love basil, oregano and thyme) and puree. Then I combine this with chicken stock (vegetable stock works fine--I've even done it with mushroom stock made from dried porcini mushrooms) and season to taste with salt (you probably won't need to add any if you use can chicken stock), fresh cracked pepper, a dash of paprika and cayenne (optional). Blend to the desired consistency and heat. Sometimes to enhance the "tomato" taste and to add more red, I'll add a small can of tomato paste before heating.

And completely Kosher for Passover (unless you use non-kosher chicken stock). Enjoy!

Posted by: DadWannaBe | April 15, 2008 5:28 PM

Tasty REAL food that is Kosher for Passover? See Pesach Gnocchi and Pesto at:

http://media.www.thejusticeonline.com/media/storage/
paper573/news/2006/04/11/Arts/
Dan-Can.Cook.Pesach.Gnocchi.And.Pesto-1843513.shtml

Posted by: rp | April 15, 2008 7:12 PM

Once again, please just stop your incredibly inane and offensive attempt to help those of us who celebrate Passover figure out what to cook and eat. For generations, we have handed down traditions and recipes for the holidays. It is not helpful. Your lame attempts to use yiddish (incorrectly) and make your interpretations of traditional holiday meals is condescending. We are ok. We are not freaks, we are not here for your amusement. Our mothers and grandmothers and fathers and grandfathers have taught us how to celebrate with food during these holidays. The holiday is not about making bizarre dishes to appeal to your stereotypes. It is about tapping into family and friends and tradition and beliefs. We have been doing this for centuries. We don't do this for your amusement. We do this for our religion, our family and to honor our history and ancestors. Your fake lasagna doesn't get us there, nor do your attempts to conjure up bizarre dishes recognize what this holiday is about.

Posted by: Please stop, in DC | April 16, 2008 7:07 AM

Let's all be civil. Food isn't meant to be static. If we only used ingredients in set, traditional ways, we'd never have Japanese curry or Italian tomato sauce. And honestly, "matzah lasagna" gives me over 20,000 google hits.

Posted by: mollyjade | April 16, 2008 9:30 AM

As a Jewish vegetarian I say "COOL".
Will definitely try it out

Posted by: T. Wilk | April 16, 2008 9:37 AM

Kim, keep up the great work.

To all of you who don't like this blog, stop reading it. Don't poison what has been an enjoyable part of my day and many others' days for the past 2 years.

Cooking involves experimenting, sometimes it turns out, sometimes it doesn't. Often, it's all relative. No one means to offend when they try to use food from others' cultures. Instead of getting mad, take it as a compliment that they were interested in your culture not as insult because they got part of it "wrong."

Posted by: C | April 16, 2008 12:53 PM

And to echo C -- what's wrong with starting NEW family/holiday traditions???

I'm not Jewish, Indian, Asian, vegan, vegetarian, gluten or lactose intolerant, and I don't have food allergies. But I can READ and either take note that something sounds good or move on.

It's sad that some people feel the need to be nasty. Especially around holidays.


Posted by: Lurker | April 16, 2008 4:54 PM

There's so much snarkiness afoot in the comments sections of the Post website. For some topics, that's to be expected. This, though, is a fun and friendly food blog intended for the enjoyment of those who share the author's interest in creative cookery and environmentally-conscious choices. Why so much nastiness?

Posted by: Vienna | April 16, 2008 5:14 PM

"matzo lasagna" actually *IS* a traditional passover dish in many communities. "Minas" are a layered matzo dish that are very much like a lasagna, and they are very popular in Sephardic communities. So the idea that this is "tortured," "ridiculous," or "bizarre" is really pretty laughable. This is really only a slightly different spin on a very old, traditional idea. Folks, there have been Jews all over the world for thousands of years. Just because something isn't like what your grandmother made doesn't mean it isn't traditional! We aren't exactly a homogenous community, folks.

Posted by: reston, va | April 16, 2008 10:03 PM

Yup, I call it "lasatza." Dear "Please stop," not all Jews have the benefit of family recipes handed down for generations; some are Jews by choice, some are invited to seders, and others have bubbehs who just couldn't cook well (like mine, though my mother did figure out how to make chicken soup). Obviously Kim's columns help a lot of people.

So back to "lasatza," as the last poster pointed out, there are precedents for similar dishes in Jewish tradition. My Dad annually invests a lot of work in a Sephardi Italian meat dish called scacchi. If you really want, I can post the recipe, but to be honest I don't think it's worth the effort. On the other hand, Passover is supposed to involve a little suffering, but it's only for 8 days.

Posted by: Reine de Saba | April 16, 2008 11:19 PM

Who would have thought that matzoh lasagna would lead to the slinging of so much vitriol. Sheesh! I, for one, am always lookng for new, interesting things to serve during Passover. Yes, I have the traditional dishes handed down for generations, and I serve them at my seders. And I'll bet my tzimmes isn't the same as your tzimmes, but does that make it abhorrent? And after two seders of traditional meals, that still leaves 6 more nights of cooking, at least 5 of which will be work nights. What's so wrong with cooking up something quick and easy that the kids will enjoy? Or should we just eat matzoh brei every night as JBE suggests? Kim, keep up the good work. Don't let the purist nutcases get you down.

Posted by: Amy | April 17, 2008 9:05 AM

What's with the hate?
Sausage-guy - enjoy your lasagna-with-sausage. No need to slag a writer doing her job posting all kinds of different recipes.

"Please stop" - what's your problem? If you don't want to eat anything for Pesach that your grandmother didn't know how to make, go right ahead. I plan to try this out during the holiday and I hope it's as good as it sounds.

Kim, thanks for all the recipes and the comments. I enjoy even the ones that I won't eat because they're not kosher, and often try to recreate them in kosher versions.

A kashrut-observant Jewish reader

Posted by: Give Me a Break | April 17, 2008 10:52 AM

Also wanted to comment that the great Passover staple, the potato, was unknown in old-world cooking until the 16th century. I bet there were some cranky old coots back then who refused to use anything made with potatoes, since Grandma never used them! At least there weren't any blogs back then, though, so the rest of us didn't have to hear them whining about it.

Posted by: va | April 17, 2008 1:33 PM

So I made this last night (halving the recipe and only using four matzoh to an 8x8 pan) and it worked great! I'm glad to add this to my recipe box and earmark it for the holiday. Yes, I know it's not Passover quite yet, but I had to preview it to make sure it'll work out ok. :-)

Posted by: Shia | April 17, 2008 8:21 PM

I made this for Passover and everyone raved about it - my mother in law said she was skeptical but it was delicious, and my sister in law said it "made" the meal. Even my picky 6 year old niece said she loved it. Almost everyone had seconds. Thanks, Kim!

P.S. I couldn't find ricotta in 3 different stores, oddly enough, so I substituted 4% milk-fat cottage cheese, and it worked out perfectly.

Posted by: Amanda | April 20, 2008 3:46 PM

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