Matzo has a very distinct smell. For me, I never realized how nostalgic it was until I started making it on my own. I can vividly remember eating matzo ball soup at every holiday with my family in my parents dining room. Some years it was in my cousin Caroline and Sumner’s house or in my Aunt Judy and Uncle Phil’s house, but my memories are most clear when I ate it in the house I grew up in.
I realized it was the smells that made it taste so good. My mom would simmer the chicken to make the soup for hours and it would fill the house with a warm smell. Then she’d wet her hands and roll out the matzo balls – another yummy smell even though some years they came out great, but other years, well, we called it ‘matzo mush’ those years. But we didn’t care! It still tasted great and it smelled like home.
When I went off to college, I remembered thinking how much I missed it and tried to find another matzo ball soup that I liked, but I never found one. So when I moved into my own apartment, I started making them myself. And the smells are what made me love the soup, no matter how the matzo balls came out.
It’s still my favorite soup and always will be.
So here are a couple of my suggestions for making sure you have flavorful, light and fluffy matzo balls in your soup:
- When making the matzo balls, roll them small. The club soda puffs them up to almost twice the size.
- Make sure you make the matzo balls fresh! They harden up and become like hockey pucks when they are refrigerated. You can make it ahead of time and just boil them right before you want to serve them since it only takes 20 minutes.
- HEAVILY salt the water you cook the matzo balls in. If you think you’ve added enough salt, double it. They will not taste that salty but it helps them cook and adds just the right amount of flavor.
- Dill is your friend – you can never use enough!
I hope you enjoy this soup as much as I do!
Matzo Ball Soup
To make the chicken stock:
- 1 5 lb. chicken
- 2 large yellow onions, unpeeled, quartered
- 3 celery stalks, cut into 1″ pieces
- 4 large carrots, peeled, cut into 1” pieces
- 1 large parsnip, peeled, cut into 1” pieces
- 1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
- 6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, left whole
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
To make the matzo balls:
- 3 large eggs, beaten to blend
- 3/4 cup matzo meal
- 1/4 cup schmaltz (or butter), melted
- 3 tablespoons club soda
- 1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, + more for assembling
- 2 small carrots, peeled, sliced ¼” thick on a diagonal
- Kosher salt
- Coarsely ground fresh black pepper
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh dill
- To make the stock: bring all ingredients and 12 cups cold water to a boil in a very large stockpot. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 1 hour.
- Strain chicken stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large saucepan and discard solids (with the exception of the chicken). You should have about 8 cups of stock.
- Transfer chicken to a plate and let it cool slightly. Remove meat, shred it and let it cool some more. Set aside.
- To make the matzo balls: mix eggs, matzo meal, schmaltz, club soda, and salt in a medium bowl (mixture will resemble wet sand; it will firm up as it rests). Cover and chill at least 2 hours.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Scoop out 2-tablespoonful portions matzo ball mixture and, using wet hands (this is important or you won’t be able to roll them right!), gently roll into balls.
- Add matzo balls to water and reduce heat so water is at a gentle simmer (too much bouncing around will break them up and they’ll become matzo mush!). Cover pot and cook matzo balls until cooked through and starting to sink, 20–25 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer matzo balls to bowls. Ladle soup over, top with dill, and season with pepper. Enjoy!