The Passover Potluck is a unique annual online event. I’ve invited my friends, both Jewish and non-Jewish, to share recipes that are kosher for Passover. My goals are simple– to foster mutual understanding between different cultures, to introduce you to my foodie friends, and to share yummy recipes and cooking ideas for Passover! To learn more about the Passover holiday, click here. To learn about what makes a recipe kosher for Passover, click here. To check out the other Passover Potluck recipes, click here.
I’m thrilled to introduce you to Alessandra at Dinner in Venice – Kosher Italian Food. Ale is inspired by the flavors of Italy, her home country, and the regional kosher cuisine of Venice. Alessandra is a wonderful cook; her recipes are rustic and authentic. I love this particular dish because it can serve as a healthy and hearty entree at the Seder. While the recipe calls for meat juice and broth, you can easily make this into a vegan side dish using the modifications Alessandra suggests. Enjoy! ~ Tori
When Tori invited me to participate in her #PassoverPotluck 2012, I immediately knew that I wanted to post an adaptation of a classic Jewish Venetian Passover recipe. On my website Dinner in Venice – Kosher Italian Food, my focus is on Italian food in general (adapted to the kosher rules). However, my true love remains “Cucina Ebraica,” Jewish Italian cuisine – in particular, the traditional dishes from Venice, my hometown. (For some history, pictures, and to find an excuse for a visit, check out the official website of the Jewish Community of Venice).
Preparing classic holiday dishes is a way of celebrating some of the contributions that women (mostly women!) throughout the centuries, throughout the world, have made to their communities with their talent and passion. It’s no coincidence that these traditional recipes are often treated with the same respect as the local minhag (religious customs).
This Vegetable Matzo Pie was an obvious choice for many reasons: first of all, the way it’s arranged reminds me of one of my favorite pasta dishes, vegetable lasagna! You can serve it as an appetizer/first course, Italian-style, or as a side like a kugel. It’s highly customizable: for example, I like to add juice from a meat roast and even pieces of home-made sausage; however, it works just as well as a vegan dish if you skip both the meat juice/meat broth and the eggs.
Another variable is texture: instead of keeping the matzahs whole, you can soak them until they are soft, break them down with your hands, and squeeze the liquid out for a less “al dente” result (but your pie will be less photogenic). You can also substitute different vegetables: as a matter of fact, variations of this dish are found in several Italian communities, each using local vegetables and with minor changes in the other ingredients. Of course, even within the same community, every Jewish mamma has her own recipe, and every son swears that his mom’s is the best…
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Tortino d'Azzima (Matzo Pie)
Matzo Pie Ingredients
- Extra virgin olive oil (to taste)
- 20 ounces matzo (more or less) (2 boxes)
- 2 pounds cleaned Swiss chard or baby spinach
- 2 pounds artichoke hearts (frozen is ok)
- 2 pounds asparagus or mushroom, cleaned and sliced
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 6 garlic cloves
- 2 quarts cold chicken broth (for soaking the matzo- sub vegetable broth for vegan mod.)
- 3 large eggs (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Sugo d'Arrosto (Roast Juice) Ingredients
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Garlic Cloves
- 4 ounces ground meat (optional)
- 1 piece marrow bone (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Vegetarian/Vegan Modifications: To make this recipe vegan/pareve, omit the eggs, use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, and make the roast juice without meat (method appears at the end of this recipe).
To make Matzo Pie
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
- Clean the vegetables, discarding the tougher parts of the artichokes and asparagus. Cut the asparagus into small pieces, slice the artichokes very thinly (if using frozen, partially defrost first), and chop the spinach.
- Blanch the spinach for about 5 minutes in a covered pot with a few tablespoons of water (you can also do this in a covered platter in your microwave). Allow to cool down, then drain and squeeze the liquid out by pressing it into a colander in your sink.
- Prepare three separate skillets on your stovetop, with at least 2 tablespoons of oil in each. Heat the oil and add 2 whole cloves of garlic to each skillet. Place the artichokes in one skillet, the asparagus or mushrooms in another, and the spinach in another.
- Add 1/2 cup of white wine each to the artichokes and the asparagus/mushroom skillets and salt to taste. Turn heat on those two skillets to medium. Allow the vegetables to simmer in the wine till it evaporates.
- Add 1/3 cup of water to the artichokes, and cover both the artichokes and the asparagus. Turn heat to low.
- Salt the spinach skillet to taste (do not add any wine). Turn heat to low.
- Cook all 3 vegetables separately on low heat until very moist and tender, adding some water if they start sticking to the skillet, or if they dry out. Cooking times may vary between 15 and 20 minutes.
- Discard the garlic cloves and set the three vegetables aside. If they feel too dry, add a few tablespoons of broth.
- Make sure you have some “sugo d’arrosto”* (roast juice) ready, or make some following my instructions at the bottom of this recipe.
- Soak the matzahs in cold chicken broth. For a prettier result, soak them briefly (about 10 minutes), a few at a time, not allowing them to crumble (if you soak them for a short time, they might still split in 2, but they will be easy to “re-compose” in the pan). For a softer, kugel-like texture, soak the matzahs for at least 40 minutes until very soft, break them down with your hands into a “mush” and then squeeze the liquid out (some people prefer this texture and they don’t mind the fact that it looks less “pretty”).
- Line the bottom of a baking pan with about ¼ of the soaked matzah. splitting some in ½ or 1/3 as needed to completely fill the perimeter.
- Brush or drizzle with a little “sugo di arrosto” and with about 1/3 cup broth (if you mush the matzah you will need to use less broth; whole matzahs, more broth), and then layer most of the spinach (reserve about ¼ for the top); follow with a layer of matzah, a little more “sugo d’arrosto” and broth, and the artichokes (set aside ¼ of all the vegetables) ; again matzah, roast juice, broth, and the asparagus. You can just top with the asparagus or make a final layer of matzah and top with roast juice.
- Break the eggs and whisk them with 1 cup leftover broth. Pour the mix over the pie slowly, trying to cover it evenly and allowing it to penetrate down the sides (if you are serving this dish as a side and prefer a lighter version, or if you are making a vegan modification, you can skip the eggs).
- Bake for about 40-45 minutes. Half-way through the baking, check the pie, and if it feels too dry, add some more broth, concentrating it on the perimeter of the matzahs. You can also cover it with foil for the second half of the baking.
To make Sugo d'Arrosto (Roast Juice)
- Roast some beef with olive oil, garlic and rosemary leaves. When the meat is done, remove it and strain the pot juices, which you will add to the matzah pie (if it’s not Passover, the roast juices also make an awesome pasta sauce!). If you don’t need to make a whole roast beef, you can make a “fake” roast juice sauce by heating some olive oil in a skillet, and cooking a small amount of ground meat in it with a few whole cloves of garlic, some rosemary, salt and pepper. And if you are vegetarian or vegan, just heat the oil with garlic and rosemary and skip the meat!