Matzo Ball Soup for the Soul
Want to connect with an ancient tradition, or just want something delicious, light and satisfying for lunch? For millennia, the symphony of ingredients that is the simple matzo ball soup recipe has fed the stomachs, eased the fevers and warmed the souls of countless generations.
Today, this basic, earthy and yet timeless dish is a fixture of Baton Rouge cuisine at Milford’s on Third, the city’s window into the world of great deli dining.
Feeling a little under the weather on a dewy Louisiana morning? Some hot matzo soup will have you feeling better, brighter and cheerier in no time at all!
At Milford’s on Third, you get the flavors of a classic deli with the Southern charm and ambiance of downtown Baton Rouge and the beautiful Watermark Hotel. All of our ingredients are fresh, but our recipes are as traditional as time itself. Milford’s matzo ball soup is straight from the Wampold family recipe book, developed over generations and honed for the modern age.
Here is a simple matzo ball soup recipe for you to try in your own kitchen from Chef Drue Vitter.
How to Make Matzo Ball Soup
Any great matzo ball soup starts with a hearty chicken stock, so take the time to develop your deepest flavors here. As with anything worth doing, you need to perfect the fundamentals before you get fancy!
Easy Chicken Stock Recipe
- 1 rotisserie roasted chicken
- 1/3 cup celery, chopped
- 1/3 cup onion, sliced or chopped
- 1 clove garlic
- Water to cover
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Yield: About 10 cups, depending on chicken size (about 10 soup servings)
- Buy a roasted chicken from your local grocery store. Take it home and eat it. Pick any remaining meat bits off the bones and reserve it. Put the bones in a stock pot.
- Add celery, onion and garlic to the pot.
- Add water until all the ingredients are just covered.
- On low heat, bring to a very low boil with not many bubbles forming. Leave on low boil for 2 hours.
- Strain chicken bones, celery, onion and garlic from the pot. The remaining liquid is your chicken stock.
About Matzo Balls
Matzo balls, of course, are the soul of your matzo ball soup. But what are they, exactly?
The word “matzo” refers to unleavened bread, and it’s central to the story of the Jewish people. When Moses led his people out of slavery in Egypt, so the biblical story goes, they had no time to wait for their bread to rise, so they mixed flour and water and cooked it flat, or unleavened, without yeast.
For more than two millennia, Jewish people everywhere have eaten unleavened bread during the days of Passover out of respect for the hardships faced by their ancestors.
But while its history is both ancient and fascinating, its ingredients are deceptively simple: Matzo balls consist of ground matzo meal mixed with eggs, water and fat or oil.
Within that simple array of ingredients, there are many variations available for you to try for yourself. This is a traditional version for any kitchen. For a kosher recipe, see below.
Traditional Matzo Ball Soup Recipe
Making matzo ball soup requires two steps. First, you make the matzo balls. Then, using the stock we discussed earlier — or a vegetable stock, if you prefer — you plate the soup.
- 4 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons chicken fat or vegetable oil
- ¼ cup seltzer, club soda or chicken broth
- 1 cup matzo meal
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Fresh dill or thyme
Prep Time: 5 minutes, then several hours to set
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Yield: About 12 balls, or three balls per ¼ cup of matzo meal (enough for four to six soup servings)
- Mix the eggs well with a fork.
- Add the chicken fat or oil, seltzer, club soda or chicken broth, matzo meal and salt and pepper.
- Let the mixture sit, refrigerated, for several hours.
- Dip your hands in cold water and shape 12 balls, each about the size of a ping-pong ball.
- Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Add salt and place matzo balls in the boiling water.
- Reduce heat, cover and simmer about 30 minutes, or until soft.
Matzo Ball Soup
- Heat several cups of chicken stock. Include meat bits reserved from the rotisserie chicken you made your stock with, if desired, or just use plain stock. If you don’t want to use chicken stock, vegetable stock can be used as a delicious replacement.
- Place freshly cooked matzo balls in the heated stock.
- Serve about 1 cup of stock with two or three matzo balls per serving. Sprinkle with a bit of fresh, chopped dill or thyme for garnish.
Refrigerate any uneaten balls in the stock, inside an airtight container. The soup will keep for four to five days. Do not remove the balls from the liquid, though — they may dry out, and probably will not taste the same.
Jewish Matzo Ball Soup Recipe
Also known as kosher matzo ball soup, this recipe varies only a bit from our traditional recipe.
Much of what makes a matzo soup kosher, in fact, has to do with the practices and traditions that surround it as much as with variations in the recipe.
To make kosher soup, first get permission from your local rabbi. Also, keep in mind that some Jewish communities have the custom of not eating wetted matzo for the first seven days of Passover. In these communities, matzo soup and other forms of matzo are eaten only on the eighth day of Passover.
Kosher Matzo Balls
This is a recipe for kosher matzo balls. The stock is prepared in the same way traditional stock is prepared. The soup is plated and stored in a similar fashion, as well.
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons oil or chicken fat
- 2 tablespoons soup stock or water
- ½ cup matzo meal
- 1 teaspoon salt
Yield: 4 balls per ¼ cup matzo
Cook time: About 35 minutes
Prep time: 25 minutes
- Beat eggs slightly with a fork.
- Add other ingredients, except matzo meal, and mix together.
- Add matzo meal gradually until the mixture thickens.
- Refrigerate for 20 minutes in a covered bowl.
- Wet hands and form mixture into balls.
- Drop balls into boiling chicken soup or a large, wide pot in which 1 quart of water and 1 tablespoon of salt has come to a boil.
- Cook for 30 minutes.
Serve about 1 cup of soup with three matzo balls per cup. Refrigerate any unused matzo balls in the soup liquid for up to four to five days.
What Is Matzo Meal?
Matzo meal is a simple flour that must be made from one of five grains: wheat, spelt, rye, oats or barley. It can be either processed or made from whole grain flour. Either way, it is mixed with water and then heated to make matzo, also called matzo — the traditional unleavened bread of the Jewish Passover. Thankfully, for fans of the matzo ball, eggs, fat and salt are allowed for the making of matzo balls.
According to rabbinic law, however, matzo must be baked or otherwise cooked within 18 minutes after it comes in contact with water.
Matzo flour was once ground onsite in each kitchen, and the dough was rolled by hand into roughly shaped unleavened bread flats. The bread can still be made in that way, of course.
But in 1838, a Frenchman named Isaac Singer invented an industrial process for making the Passover bread, and today, most unleavened matzo bread is commercially produced. Matzo balls for matzo ball soup are made from the same matzo meal that goes into matzo bread, but the balls — unlike unleavened bread — are typically still produced by hand in each kitchen, using commercially ground matzo flour.
What to Serve With Matzo Ball Soup
Roast lamb is the traditional favorite for this role.
Cooked lamb has a favored spot at the Passover seder table, along with a variety of herbs, because Moses’ people sacrificed a lamb before they made their escape from Egypt. Today, for many religious traditions and for those who follow no religion at all, springtime is an excellent time to experience fresh roast lamb with a rosemary and thyme rub. Matzo ball soup, with its hearty, yet light, simplicity makes a wonderful accompaniment.
Is Matzo Ball Soup Good for You?
In short, yes! But it’s probably not the matzo itself that helps.
For as long as we can remember, mothers have fed chicken soup to their loved ones to treat the common cold and other respiratory ailments, and recent research has shown that they were definitely on to something.
Hard science, in fact, shows that many of the compounds in chicken soup are useful in treating the symptoms, if not the cause, of respiratory distress. For example, the chicken in matzo ball soup’s stock contains cysteine, an amino acid that helps thin mucus in the lungs, which helps you expel the nasty stuff when you cough or sneeze.
Onions contain antioxidants that help limit the inflammation that sets in with any infection, including the respiratory infection that’s best known as the common cold.
Additionally, celery contains vitamin C, which helps to bolster the immune system.
And chicken soup in general apparently helps inhibit the movement of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that’s deployed by the body to fight infections. White blood cells are central to the immune response to bacteria, viruses and other invaders, of course, but they’re also the source of much of the harmful and unpleasant inflammation that accompanies a cold or exacerbates an asthma attack.
So, when you ingest the warmth of matzo ball soup on a late winter’s morning, you are indeed ingesting the vapors of good health.
Magic on Third Street
Step through the doors of Milford’s on Third in Baton Rouge, and you enter a melding of multiple worlds.
There’s the world of the New York deli, where cultures that span the planet shine through on the menu all year long. And then there’s the warm, southern world of downtown Baton Rouge, where life is savored in slower bites, everyone is a neighbor and even Old World favorites are served with a twist of Southern charm. Come and taste the experience for yourself, and bring your friends and colleagues.
Y’all are always welcome!