It was raining and windy this weekend in Los Angeles. The rugged San Gabriel mountains are visible in the distance, white and glowing with freshly-fallen snow. The birds are quiet, and the lizards that normally transform our yard into a mini-Jurrasic Park during the summertime are asleep for the winter. Heavy clouds may prevent the sun from shining, but there is a variety of beautiful flowers in bloom whose colors actually appear most vivid on these gloomy days. Deciduous trees scatter fallen leaves throughout the neighborhood while others like the citrus are producing an abundance of fruit that illuminate the landscape and decorate the last few chilly days of January with their vibrant colors and sunny flavors. This cold weather demands comforting things like hot cups of ginger tea, and after-dinner mugs of hot nutella spiked with frangelico. But there is absolutely nothing that says “warm and comforting” like a relaxing bowl of matzo ball soup, and today we are thrilled to be sharing a vegetarian version of this classic that boasts perfectly cooked matzo balls—light, fluffy and buttery—which are simmered in a flavorful broth with chopped carrots, celery, onions, minced garlic, and topped with aromatic sprigs of fresh dill. Brace yourself winter, matzo ball soup is coming.
This simple and delicious soup, also known as Jewish Penicillin, is the ultimate comfort food when you are feeling sick. Whether it’s cold outside or you’ve got a cold inside, this will warm you up and have you feeling better in no time. It took us several tries to get the recipe right, but after tasting the results it was worth every second. The matzo balls are flavorful and have the perfect light texture: seasoned with finely minced onion, a pinch of cayenne, and a hint of butter, they are delicious even on their own. Many recipes cook the matzo balls separately and add them to the broth just before serving, but here they simmer directly in the soup absorbing the rich flavors of the herbs and vegetables. While some purists may claim that cooking the matzo balls in the soup makes the broth cloudy, this is barely noticeable, and doing so greatly enhances the flavor. Adding a few sprigs of dill to each bowl before serving brings a fresh, bright aroma, and is an essential addition and a pretty garnish.
It is fun to make the matzo balls with your hands! When preparing the dough, it may seem thin and runny, and you will likely be wondering how in the world you are going to roll it into balls. But after an hour in the fridge, the matzo meal absorbs the liquid, and the dough thickens to a light, rollable texture. While many recipes use baking soda or seltzer water to give the matzo balls a lift, here we use whipped egg whites to keep them soft and fluffy. It is easiest to whip them with a stand mixer, although a hand mixer will work perfectly well too, or even a simple whisk if you are looking to get an arm workout. The base of this soup is two quarts of vegetable broth, so be sure to use your favorite kind. When choosing one, the best test is to heat some up and try it plain: if it is tasty enough to be enjoyed on its own, then it is a proper foundation on which to build a flavorful soup. With fresh carrots, celery, herbs and spices, and the most tender matzo balls you’ve ever tasted, this soothing and delicious soup is the ultimate antidote to keep you healthy, warm, and cozy all winter long.
Vegetarian Matzo Ball Soup
serves 6 to 8
For the matzo balls:
4 large eggs, separated
2 teaspoons very finely minced onion
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 teaspoon salt
pinch of cayenne pepper
3/4 cup matzo meal
For the soup:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow or white onion, chopped
4 medium carrots, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
3 celery stalks, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup white wine
2 quarts vegetable broth
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried dill
Make the matzo balls:
In a medium bowl, combine the egg yolks, onion, melted butter, salt, and cayenne pepper, whisk until blended, then set aside. In a clean bowl with an electric mixer, whip the egg whites until they form stiff peaks when the beaters are lifted. Gently fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture, lightly stirring just until it is blended, being careful not to deflate the whites too much. Add the matzo meal in three additions, gently folding it in until just blended. Cover the bowl and refrigerate it for 1 hour. Line a tray with parchment paper, and grease the paper if desired. Using your hands, and being careful to handle the fluffy dough as little as possible so it does not deflate, form the dough into 1-inch balls. You will end up with 14 to 16 balls, depending on how big you make them.
Make the soup:
In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium. When hot, add the onion, celery, and carrots, and sauté them for 10 minutes, until softened slightly. Add the white wine, and cook for 2 minutes. Then add the vegetable broth, garlic, bay leaves, and dill, stirring to combine. Raise the heat to high, cover the pot, and bring to a simmer. When simmering, drop the matzo balls in evenly around the surface of the soup. Return to a simmer, then cover, turn heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes without opening the lid. Remove from heat. Serve in bowls with 2 matzo balls per serving, along with several ladles of broth and vegetables. Garnish each bowl with fresh dill, and serve with additional fresh dill at the table. Enjoy!
— For the onion, you can chop one entire onion for the soup, then mince two teaspoons of that for the matzo balls.
— For the broth, use any kind that you like. If you can enjoy the broth on its own, then you will enjoy it in this soup. We use these bouillon cubes.