Passover is looming, anxiety is mounting, and many of us are doing some version of the math in our heads about how many hours we still need to clean our kitchens and how many remaining hours we’ll have to cook. Even for the well-practiced and enthusiastic home cook and host, it’s a stressful time.
I come bearing extremely niche good news. It is my best-ever life hack, and while I’ve never gatekept it, I’m now apparently going full, outbound, unpaid evangelist:
Go buy yourself the Streit’s Matzo Ball and Soup Mix — available in the pitifully-curated kosher end cap of most mainstream grocery chains, at your local kosher grocery or online, by the case.
I first had this soup at a Shabbat lunch hosted by a rabbi and rebbetzin in suburban Detroit. I had been a pescatarian for six years at that point, and perhaps the thing I missed most in the world was matzah ball soup. When I found out the soup being passed around was vegetarian, I almost keeled over in delight. When I tried it and it was good — flavorful but not fatty, salty and comforting in that universal umami way, with matzah balls that had the perfect fluff to chew composition — I begged for the recipe. The couple brought out the box instead, admitting that since they first tried it, they’d never gone back. That night, I ordered a pack of six from Amazon.
I have since served this soup upwards of 40 times. I get compliments every single time, as well as a flood of questions about the secret to getting my matzah balls so perfectly fluffy and uniform. The secret is that I follow the package instructions, which take 15 minutes at most and are idiot-proof. And voilá: no more tablespoon measuring, no more wondering if the seltzer water was fizzy enough, no more randomly finding that every third matzah ball is soggy on the outside and upsettingly dense on the inside. Their quality control is flawless.
I don’t usually recommend food from a box. I usually wouldn’t even admit to making something from a box. I cook quite a lot, as does my partner; we love hosting Shabbat dinners and parties and pulling out all of the cooking stops. We’re notoriously snooty about making things from scratch: whipped cream, frosting, miso broth, pickled vegetables. We have seen every episode of “Chef’s Table,” and we purchase every new Ottolenghi cookbook like the yuppies we are. But we drop all of our pretensions for the sole exception of this soup.
I’ve hosted seders with this soup — a sad, two-person 2020 one during which I cried into it, and two big family and friends affairs in 2022 for which we tripled the recipe in a giant pot. I’ve hosted Shabbat and holiday dinners all year round with this soup; I’ve nursed myself and my partner and our friends back to health with this soup. I made a vat of it before getting my COVID vaccine, planning for the 36 hours I’d be knocked out with side effects. I’ve given vegetarian friends the unexpected gift of matzah ball soup when they least expected it. I’ve kept tureens of this soup in the fridge (storing the matzah balls separately to keep them from getting soggy, heads up). I’ve dressed this soup up with carrots and onions and parsley, and I’ve kept it plain. I’ve had it as an appetizer and as a full meal. I’ve had it as a drunk midnight snack. I’ve tried the low-sodium version (also great — soup is a little thinner) and the Manischewitz version (slightly less memorable all around, but still a winner). I’ve never paid more than $2.50 a box, and a box makes nine servings. I’ve kept at least one box of this soup in my pantry, all year round, for the last four years. I just restocked, since I’ll be cooking and serving at least one box next week.
Buy the soup mix. Save yourself the hours and the insecurity about matzah ball texture. Get ready for the easiest preparation experience of your life, and for the compliments to roll in. It’s your choice how you respond to them, but I strongly recommend ‘fessing up to the shortcut and spreading the gospel.
Have a happy and life-hacky Passover.