Most Passover Seder meals begin with a hot bowl of chicken matzo ball soup. But if you’re planning a vegetarian Seder, or you have vegetarian guests, you may need a different option. This Sephardic family soup recipe was given to me by our good friend Rachel Mandel. Rachel was born in French-speaking Casablanca, Morocco. Her parents were born in the areas of Tetouan and Larache, in the Spanish-speaking northern part of Morocco (closer to Gibraltar and Spain). Because of her family’s background, Rachel has learned to cook with a wonderful variety of spices. She fondly recalls her childhood in Morocco:
“Back in the 50’s and 60’s we used to have merchants come by the houses and sell us fresh fruits and vegetables every week. The flavors and smells of the produce were such a treat! I can still remember the smell of the watermelons, believe it or not.”
Rachel’s dishes have a healthy Mediterranean influence, including lots of fresh vegetables and herbs. Her main cooking influence comes from her grandmother, Claire Fhima. Claire taught Rachel how to make this soup, which has become known in her family as “Mami’s Sopita.” The grandkids now ask for it by name each time they visit her home.
This soup can be served chunky, with texture, or as a puree. If you plan to serve it as a puree, the easiest way to get that texture is with an immersion blender.
A Note About Chicken Powder: The “chicken” consommé powder called for in the recipe is actually not made of chicken at all. It’s a common vegetarian ingredient in Jewish cooking that adds a savory, salty flavor to the dish without the need for meat. You can find it in the kosher section of the grocery store and at most Middle Eastern markets. My favorite brand is Osem MSG-free chicken powder. If you’re using this recipe for Passover, make sure you pick a brand that says Kosher for Passover on the label.
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- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 brown onion, peeled and minced
- 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed (about 2 lbs of cubed squash)
- 5 medium zucchinis sliced into 1/2 inch thick circles
- 1 orange sweet potato (yam), peeled and cubed
- 3/4 cup minced fresh curly parsley, divided
- 1 tbsp chicken consommé powder (or more to taste - vegetarian product)
- 2 tsp minced fresh sage
- 1 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh parsley, minced (for garnish)
- Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Sauté the minced onion for a few minutes until soft. Add butternut squash, zucchinis, sweet potato, and 1/2 cup of the minced fresh curly parsley (reserve the rest of the parsley for garnish).
- Cover veggies with about 10 cups of water. Add chicken powder, sage, thyme, salt and pepper to the pot, stir till well combined. Turn up heat to high and bring to a boil.Reduce heat and simmer the soup for about 45 minutes, until all the veggies are tender. Taste the soup. Season with additional salt, pepper, or chicken powder to taste, if desired.
- You can eat the soup as is if you prefer a heartier texture. You may also puree the soup with an immersion blender if you wish. Remove pot from heat and blend with care—the hot soup can splash up and burn you if you’re not careful!No matter which preparation method you choose, be sure to garnish each bowl with minced fresh parsley. This final touch really brings out the natural vegetable flavors in the soup. Enjoy!