There used to be an commercial with the tag line, “You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s real Jewish rye.” That’s definitely true of matzo balls too. Whether you like them in chicken soup or vegetable broth, there is no comfort food better than matzo balls. And these Make-Ahead Matzo Balls are a dream for those of us who want comfort food at the ready.
Plus, these matzo balls are great Jewish holiday food. Whether it’s a Passover Seder or a High Holy day meal, they’ll be a welcome addition to your menu. Of course, if you don’t celebrate Jewish holidays, you can just keep them in the freezer and pull out a few whenever the mood strikes. And it will. I promise you. One bite of one of these make-ahead matzo balls and you’ll be smitten.
I started to take notes on this recipe, adapted from one I found on Epicurious, last year. Or was it the year before? I don’t think I’m the only one for whom memories of the last few years have jumbled together. Anyway, I began working on my own matzo ball recipe after I learned that my friend, who was bringing matzo balls to our Seder, used a mix.
Not that I have anything against mixes. Far from it. (See the recipe for my poppyseed cake.) But still, if homemade is this easy, you have to love it. And convert from boxed matzo balls to these. Besides, the ones from the box are dull. These are herby and delicious. I make them relatively small, so I can have 3 or even 4 in a bowl of soup. If you prefer them larger, go ahead and make them that way.
This recipe has only a few ingredients. The carbonated soda water is essential, but don’t get on my case because I used expensive Italian sparkling water instead of seltzer. You only need a few tablespoons and that was what I had easily within reach.
By the way, if you’re familiar with the age-old debate, which way do you prefer them, sinkers or floaters? These are roughly in between. they are not dense like sinkers, but not so airy as to be floaters. Instead, they have the best qualities of both kinds. They are substantial like sinkers, but not leaden. And they are light like floaters, but not spongy. If you want lots of details on what ingredients help make matzo balls one or the other, check out this Daniel Gritzer post from Serious Eats. I don’t use most of his tips, and my recipe varies from his, but I found his explanations useful.
Tips for Make-Ahead Matzo Balls
- Mixing the dough. Don’t overmix the dough. Think of it as muffin mixture. Once you mix it, let the dough rest before forming the matzo balls. Keep in mind that this is a 3 or 4-step process. Make the dough. Let it sit. A few hours or a day later make the matzo balls. Then make or freeze them. (It’s 3 steps if you form the balls and cook them right away. It’s 4 steps, which I did, if you make them and freeze them for cooking later.)
- Keep your hands wet when forming the matzo balls. Your matzo balls will be easy to form if you keep dipping your hands in water to wet them in between every 1 or 2 matzo balls. I do that by keeping a bowl of water by my parchment-lined cookie sheet.
- Freeze them. Yes, you can freeze matzo balls before cooking them. I did a side-by-side comparison of 2 matzo balls. The first I formed, refrigerated, and then cooked. The other I froze and cooked from frozen. After cooking they looked and weighed the same. Plus, I did a taste test – with my beloved (of course) as my taste tester extraordinaire. I served him the two matzo balls in different bowls of chicken soup. He couldn’t tell the difference between them.
Make-Ahead Matzo Balls
This matzo ball recipe is tasty because it is chock full of herbs and scallions, shallots, or red onion. It freezes well, so it's perfect for holidays when you don't want to fuss on the day when you serve the holiday meal. Plus, it's wonderful comfort food to keep around and cook straight from frozen when you need a satisfying meal and a warm culinary hug.
- 6 tablespoons margarine. 3 oz/85 g (3/4 stick). It is traditional to use chicken fat (schmaltz) or margarine. I made these vegetarian, so I used margarine. If you prefer butter, that works too.
- 3-4 scallions, finely chopped 7/8 oz/20 g Alternatively, use about 4 oz/115 g diced (finely chopped) shallot or red onion.
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup matzo meal 4 & 1/2 oz/130 g
- 2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
- 3 tablespoons carbonated, unflavored soda, e.g. seltzer, Perrier, Pellegrino, etc.
Making the matzo balls
Melt the margarine in a small pan on medium-low heat. (Don't let it brown) Raise the heat to medium-high and add the scallions, shallots, or red onion. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the scallions, shallots, or red onion are lightly cooked. For scallions, that will take only about 1 minute, for shallots or red onion, cook about 5 minutes, until the pieces become translucent but do not brown. Set it aside to cool.
Whisk or lightly beat the eggs, dill, salt, and pepper. Add the matzo meal and mix lightly until combined. Then add the carbonated soda water and cooked scallions, shallots or red onion with the margarine and mix again.
Cover the mixture and refrigerate for 6-24 hours. Then form into balls about 1 & 1/2 tablespoons each, using wet hands to form the balls. Place them on a parchment or wax paper-lined cookie sheet and refrigerate if cooking within 1 day, or freeze for later use. (See notes below.)
Cooking the matzo balls
Bring a large pot of water with about 1 tablespoon of salt to a rolling boil. Gently place the matzo balls in the boiling water, cover the pot, and cook until tender, anywhere from 1 hour (for just a few matzo balls) to 1 hour 10-15 minutes for a whole batch. If necessary to add water while the matzo balls are cooking, make sure it is boiling before adding it. (Cold or cool water would lower the temperature of the cooking liquid too much.)
When the matzo balls are fully cooked, use a slotted spoon to remove them from the boiling water. Serve them in either chicken soup or vegetable broth.
I tried using a whisk to mix the eggs, etc, then the matzo meal. While it works for the liquid mixture, once you add the matzo meal, the whisk is a pain. It’s easier to start with a big fork.
If you’re obsessive about keeping your matzo balls uniform in size, I made mine about 3/4 oz/24 g each. Once cooked, they roughly double in size and weight, taking on water from the boiling water they cook in. Although you could make larger matzo balls, these are a good size for serving 2 or 3 in a bowl of soup.
To freeze uncooked matzo balls, leave them on the cookie sheet until frozen. Then transfer to a closed container or quart freezer bag. If cooking frozen matzo balls, place them in boiling water directly from the freezer.