Vegetarian Butternut Squash Matzah Ball Soup


By Leah Hadad, Tribes–A–Dozen Hallah

This matzah ball soup is for the "underprivileged vegetarian." It is inevitable to encounter at least one holiday guest who abstains from eating meat. Such guests might feel left out when everyone else around the dinner table is gobbling chicken matzah ball soup.  As not to impose on my hosts, I always bring this soup when invited for a holiday dinner.  My daughter and I don’t get to feel deprived and we happily share it with other vegetarian guests. Meatless matzah ball soups were on my holiday dinner menu even before I turned pescatarian.  With meat, often brisket, as the centerpiece of a multi–course meal, a vegetable–based soup could be welcomed as a refreshingly light alternative, even for non–vegetarians.

When I was a child, we had fresh, homemade soup daily. It was usually cooked with chicken. Passover takes me back to the pungent aroma of the customary lamb soup, colored yellow by hawa'age – the traditional Yemenite blend of aromatic spices: tumeric, cumin, coriander, and black pepper.

I was introduced to chicken matzah ball soup when I moved to the United States almost three decade ago. I readily adopted it.  Mixing traditions, I made it my own by adding hawa'age to the broth and cilantro to the matzah balls.  It made me feel closer to home.  Then I became pescatarian. As necessity is the mother of invention, I substituted the hearty butternut squash for the meat and have tweaked the recipe over the years.  Recently, I started adding cilantro and pumpkin seed pesto to the matzah balls. More than just satisfying, this vegetarian substitute is wholesomely delectable.


Vegetable Stock (or store-bought):
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 stalks broccoli, peeled, optional (I save the stalks for stocks)
2 onions, quartered
6 garlic cloves
1 parsnip, scrubbed or peeled, cut in thirds
2 carrots, scrubbed or peeled, cut in thirds
Green leaves of 1 leek, washed
1-2 bay leaf
Cold water

Spice bag:
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp whole black pepper
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1 slice of fresh ginger

Butternut Squash and Leek Soup:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tray cubed butternut squash, 20 oz.
1 leek, white part, 1/4–inche slices
1 cup white wine
8 cups of liquid
1/2 –1 tsp. turmeric
2 tsp. salt, or to taste.
Ground black pepper to taste
1/2  bunch cilantro, leaves and thin stalks

Matzah Balls (use your favorite recipe)

Cilantro-Pumpkin Seed Pesto* (recipe below)


Prepare hommade vegetable stock:  Add 2 Tbsp. olive oil to a large hot stockpot. Add vegetables and braise for 5 minutes;

While vegetables are braising, prepare the Spice Bag: Place the spices in a cloth spice bag, such as "Wrap ‘n Boil," and crush gently with a pestle, to release their aroma and flavor; Place spice bag in the pot with braised vegetables, add bay leaf and cold water to cover vegetables.  Bring to a boil, lower flame, and simmer until tender.  Strain stock.

While stock is simmering, prepare the Matzah Balls. Use your favorite recipe, or from a box. After you have mixed the Matzah balls, add a heaping 1 Tbsp. cilantro-pumpkin seed pesto* to the mixture  Mix well to combine. Refrigerate for 15 minutes, or until you are ready to use. This can be done a day in advance.

In another pot, braise the squash and leek in two Tbsp. olive oil; Add the wine and bring to a gentle boil.  Add 8 cups of vegetable stock or a combination of vegetable stock and water. Bring to a gentle boil; Add spices and simmer on low until squash is almost ready.  Adjust seasoning  -- salt and coarsely ground black pepper, to taste.

Add Matzah balls and simmer until cooked.

Add the cilantro immediately before serving.


Yield: 6 servings

* There are kosher for Passover pumpkin seeds. However, they are classified as kitniyot so all Ashkenazi and some Sephardi and Mizrachi Jews won't eat them. Check with your local Rabbinic authority.

Cilantro-Pumpkin Seed Pesto
1/2 cup raw shelled pumpkin seeds
2 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp. Kosher sea salt
1/4 tsp. coriander
1/4 tsp. cumin seeds
1/4 tsp. black pepper corns
Few dashes of red pepper flakes, optional
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Spread shelled pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet.  Place on middle rack in oven.  Turn oven to 350° F.  Roast until seeds release their fragrance, about 10 minutes. Take out of oven and let cool on a rack. Keep an eye on seeds while roasting.

While seeds are roasting, place garlic, salt, and spices in a mortar and use pestle to crush into a paste.  Add the seeds and grind to a coarse meal consistency.  Add oil and incorporate all ingredients with the pestle. Taste and adjust flavor.

Tips and Suggestions:
• You can make this soup from scratch or make it semi–homemade.

• Use store-bought vegetable Stock or follow your favorite recipe.

• Prepare the vegetable stock in advance and refrigerate or freeze.

• Prepare the Matzah balls 1 day ahead.

• Make soup 1 day ahead and refrigerate.

* Cook Matzah balls in soup as close to serving time as you can.

* For a large crowd, double recipe

Recipes: Passover, Vegetarian, Matzah Ball, Parve, Kosher

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