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Food + Cooking

Behind The Recipe(s): Passover Pasta, and Lemon Cheesecake

How one of our food editors transformed matzo into a light-textured pasta and a refreshing cheesecake you’ll want to make any time of the year.

When I was growing up, we just dreaded Passover. You can’t eat any leavened or fermented wheat, and since we’re Ashekenazi Jews, we couldn’t have rice or legumes, either, so even peanut butter was out. Mom tried hard, but I remember a lot of tasteless, boring, eggy food. There was one member of the household who enjoyed Passover, though—Daisy, our overweight collie. The rest of the year she was on special diet kibble, but it contained grains, so for Passover, she got chicken, and eggs, and chicken soup with mashed carrots—she never ate her dinner faster or with more relish than during Passover.

Now, when I’m developing recipes for Passover, I like to tweak the everyday foods you wouldn’t normally expect to be able to eat. That’s where the pasta primavera came in. I got around the leavened wheat restrictions by making the noodles from scratch using matzo cake meal. The result is just like regular homemade egg pasta, though perhaps even more delicate, so it’s really delicious. (Delicate to eat, that is—it’s actually very unfussy to make.) Instead of dusting the dough with flour, I used potato starch; when you add some of the pasta cooking water to the sauce, it imparts a wonderful silkiness. And as for the vegetables, they fit wonderfully with all the springtime rituals that are part of Passover. Peas and asparagus, and lemon—all those bright and happy harbingers of summer.

It was the same idea with the lemon cheesecake: Normally the problem is not the cake itself but the crust, made from shortbread or cookie crumbs, neither of which fly for Passover. I decided to make almond cookie crumbs; don’t worry, you don’t have to make actual cookies first. I love anything with almond, and these crumbs—essentially matzo cake meal ground together with almonds and sugar and mixed with butter—are about as yummy and buttery as a cheesecake crust can be. I think if Daisy were still around she would wolf down a piece in record time.

Give matzo a makeover with our fresh-tasting pasta primavera and lemon cheesecake.