Passover spinach matzoh lasagne

April 12, 2009 at 10:15 am (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Dark leafy greens, Jewish, Necessarily nonvegan, Pasta, Starches, Website / blog)


For Passover this year I wanted to make Peter Berley’s spinach mushroom vegan tart, but I didn’t have enough time to figure out how to make a kosher-for-Passover crust. I did try making an almond, matzoh meal crust held together with butter, but it just turned to crumbly sand. Instead, I ended up making this matzoh spanokopita (spanomatzikah? matzokopita?) recipe from Gourmet magazine for the main dish. Although it’s certainly rich and cheesy, it doesn’t taste overwhelmingly rich. I call it spanokopita, and although the flavors are similar, it would need significantly more feta and butter to deserve the name. I simplified the recipe significantly, by using a stick blender instead of a stand blender and skipping the matzoh soaking and spinach squeezing steps. Here is my modified version of the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped dill, divided
  • 1 (16-ounce) container cottage cheese
  • 2 cups whole milk (1.5 cups may be plenty)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 6 ounces feta, crumbled (1 1/2 cups), divided
  • 6 matzos (about 6 inches square)
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Oil a 13- by 9- by 2-inch (3-quart shallow) baking dish
  2. Chop the onion, then cook with the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, 12 to 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, add the cottage cheese, milk, eggs,  nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Use a stick blender to  purée until smooth. Add in 4 ounces of the crumbled feta. Reserve 1.5 cups in a separate bowl.
  4. When the onion is golden, add the spinach to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1/3 cup dill, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Add the spinach mixture to the large bowl with the milk mixture.
  5. Arrange 2  matzos side by side in the baking dish. Break up matzohs to fill in any cracks. Pour in half of the pinach filling. Cover with 2 more matzos, then pour in remaining filling. Put remaining 2 matzos on top and pour the reserved cottage-cheese mixture over them. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup feta.
  6. Bake, uncovered, until golden and set, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes, then serve sprinkled with remaining 2 tablespoons dill.

Serves 8.

This recipe is relatively easy to make–just one skillet and a big bowl are required. I didn’t time it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I could make it and clean up in under 30 minutes. The lasagna held together very well when sliced (probably due to the eggs), and looked quite pretty on the plate. I baked it ahead of time for the Passover seder, and then reheated it. The topping became slightly hard and dried out, but otherwise it was very good. The first time I made this, I only had about 1 cup of feta, so I didn’t put any on top. Even without the melted cheese topping, I quite liked the recipe, and the top looked beautiful. Both times I forgot to sprinkle dill on top after baking. There are only a few more things that I might change about this recipe. I might try reducing the amount of milk slightly, to 1.75 or 1.5 cups, since I’m not soaking the matzoh ahead of time. I might also try it sometime with lowfat milk, as I usually don’t have whole milk around, and had to buy it just for this recipe. Finally, to simplify the recipe, it would be worth skipping the “reserve the milk mixture” step, and just pouring a bit of the spinach mixture on top of the final matzoh.

Rating: B+

Derek said this recipe is “very good, tasty, B+”.

Update March 2011:  We reserved some of the feta for the top, as the recipe instructs. But it got over-browned and turned into hard, dry little pellets that we had to pick off.

Update April 2011: For Passover this year I doubled the spinach matzoh pie recipe, but baked it in the regular 9x13x2 shallow 3-quart rectangular pyrex pan instead of my 15×10 inch 4-quart (or two square 2-quart) pans. Again I skipped the soaking step. I didn’t cook the pie until we were almost ready to eat, and I think I didn’t cook it enough because it was still rather soupy. I think that since the pan was larger I should have cooked it longer. Also, since I used a larger pan we probably should have added another layer of matzoh to compensate for the decreased surface area. Finally, we accidentally used up all the filling before placing the final matzoh on top. As a result, we had the matzoh as the top layer rather than the spinach mixture, so I think less of the liquid evaporated. But the pie tasted really good in any case.

Update August 2011:

I made this decidedly non summery dish on a chilly day in August. I took one of the commenters suggestions and used two quite large leeks instead of the onion. I felt like the recipe had enough fat so I cut the olive oil to 1.5 tablespoons. It was plenty for sauteeing the leek. I only had 450 grams of frozen, chopped spinach (about 16 ounces), but I figured it was okay because I had more chopped leek than you’d get from one large onion. I used a mix of lowfat and full fat cottage cheese, and a full 200 grams (7 ounces) of feta. I used whole milk, but cut the amount to 1.5 cups. All the dill at the market was flowering, so instead I used 1/2 cup (packed) of mixed parsley and mint. I used four regular german eggs, and the full amounts of salt, nutmeg, and pepper.

I skipped all the complicated soaking and reserving steps, and just mixed the feta, herbs, cooked leek, and cooked spinach in with all the other ingredients (after blending them with my stick blender). I didn’t grease the pan, but I did put down a thin layer of the filling (mostly the milk) before I put down the first layer of matzoh. Last time Derek hadn’t liked the matzoh texture so much so I made the dish with matzoh on the left half and Barilla no-cook pasta noodles on the right half. I cooked the dish uncovered at 400 degrees (with the fan on) for 35 minutes. The top was brown and the noodles and matzoh were soft at that point. It was not soupy at all. All the extra moisture had been absorbed. It held together well when cut.

I couldn’t taste the nutmeg, mint, or parsley. I did taste a lot of salt.  Even Derek (crazy salt man) said it was too salty. It’s weird. I don’t remember the dish being particularly salty before. I went back and checked the original recipe and indeed it calls for 1.25 teaspoons of salt. I checked the reviews and some of them complain that it’s too salty, and others say it’s not salty enough.  Maybe it depends on the brand of feta and cottage cheese? Or maybe I somehow mis-measured. Despite the salt, I liked the dish. The matzoh and lasagne noodle halves were surprisingly similar, but both Derek and I liked the matzoh half better. Next time I want to try whole wheat matzoh. Derek (as always) wasn’t excited about the dish. But it’s pretty easy and I find it very satisfying, so I’m going to play around more to see if I can get Derek to like it more. I think next time I’ll use less salt, more herbs, more nutmeg, and some garlic. I might also try using lowfat milk (which I tend to have on hand) and putting back all the olive oil or using all full fat cottage cheese. I also need to try to find a better feta.

Update December 2011:

I made this recipe again, with a few modifications.  I used 2 Tbs. olive oil, and instead of dill I used mostly oregano with a little parsley.  Next time I’d put in more herbs though (maybe 1/2 cup, packed), as I couldn’t taste the oregano at all, and the parsley barely at all.  I was a bit short on cottage cheese (14 oz) so I put in the whole pack of feta (6.5-7 ounces I think).  I used low-fat milk and reduced the amount to 1 cup.  I cut the salt to 1 tsp.  Instead of matzohs I used three no-boil barilla lasagna noodles (all I had).  I was worried that the dish wouldn’t hold together, since I cut the amount of noodles so much, but it actually held together quite well.  It tasted good, but it was again way too salty.  Maybe the matzoh absorbs a lot of the salt?  It certainly adds (unsalted) bulk to the recipe.  Derek liked the dish a lot this time, maybe because of all the salt.  Next time I’d cut the salt down to 1/2 teaspoon I think.

Without a lot of matzoh this dish ends up being a bit more like a (cheesy) kookoo (Iranian frittata-like dish) than a lasagne.  When cooked in a 9×13 dish at least, it’s very low and flat.

Update September 2012:

Here’s the non-kosher-for-passover, simplified version I made today:

  • 1 very large leek, white and light green parts, chopped (about 300g edible part) [next time add some onion as well?]
  • 1.5 tablespoons olive oil [next time increase to 2 Tbs.?]
  • 2/3 tsp. fine sea salt [next time cut to 1/2 tsp.]
  • just over 21 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed (600g) [maybe next time use 650g?]
  • 40g frozen chopped dill (I used a box of frozen pre-chopped dill) [maybe next time add some parsley or oregano or mint as well?]
  • 400g 4% cottage cheese (about 14 oz.)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 very large eggs (about 175g total without the shells)
  • heaping 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg [next time try 1/2 tsp.]
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 200g feta, crumbled (about 7 oz) feta
  • 6 whole wheat lasagne noodles
  1. Wash and chop the leek.  Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Get out a 13-by-9 inch (3-quart shallow) baking dish.
  2. Saute the leek with the oil and salt in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, 12 to 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, add the cottage cheese, milk, eggs,  nutmeg, and pepper. Use a stick blender to  purée until smooth.  Use a bit of the mixture to “grease” the bottom and sides of the baking dish.  Crumble in the feta and add the chopped dill.
  4. When the leek is golden, add the spinach to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add the spinach mixture to the large bowl with the milk mixture.
  5. Arrange 3 lasagne noodles in the baking dish. Pour in half of the spinach filling. Cover with 3 more noodles, then pour in remaining filling.
  6. Cover the dish with tin foil and bake tightly covered for 30 minutes.  Uncover, reduce the temperature to 350 and cook until golden and set, about another 15 to 20 minutes. Cool 10 minutes.

Makes 6 servings.  Each serving has 375 calories (26% protein, 31% carbs, 41% fat).  My simplified version with frozen spinach and dill is pretty easy to make—just one skillet and a big bowl are required, and you have to chop the leek.  I was worried since I used regular whole wheat lasagne noodles, and didn’t boil them first, but they softened up fine after 45 minutes of baking and another 15 or so minutes sitting in the hot oven.  I used leaf (not chopped) frozen spinach, and was a bit worried that the spinach pieces would be stringy, but they weren’t at all.  The lasagna held together very well when sliced (probably due to the eggs), and looked quite pretty on the plate.   Again, however, it was too salty.  Also, I wished it was a bit more sour.  I wonder what it would taste like if I used buttermilk instead of regular milk.

I wonder if this recipe could be multiplied by 1.5, to make 12 servings.  Just add one more layer of noodles.  There’s plenty of vertical room in the pan. It will probably just take a little extra time to cook through.  Derek thinks the texture will end up too soggy.

Derek said he “loved it” and rated it an A-.

Update Feb 2013:  I modified this recipe a bit to use up some items in the fridge.  For the herbs I used a mix of dill, mint, and oregano.  I didn’t have enough cottage cheese so I used a bit of goat cheese and parmesan for some of the cheese.  I didn’t have any leeks so sautéed just onions, some scallions, and a little bit of green peppers.  And I was a bit short on milk.  The texture of the lasagne came out fine, but the taste was not good at all.  I thought all my substitutions would work, and maybe individually they would have, but apparently I can’t futz with this recipe to the extent that I thought.

Update Feb 2013:  I modified this recipe a bit to use up some items in the fridge.  For the herbs I used a mix of dill, mint, and oregano.  I didn’t have enough cottage cheese so I used a bit of goat cheese and parmesan for some of the cheese.  I didn’t have any leeks so sautéed just onions, some scallions, and a little bit of green peppers.  And I was a bit short on milk.  The texture of the lasagne came out fine, but the taste was not good at all.  I thought all my substitutions would work, and maybe individually they would have, but apparently I can’t futz with this recipe to the extent that I thought.

Update April 2013:

I made this again for Passover this year, but I multiplied the recipe by 1.5 to serve 13 people.  I used 1 medium onion (8 ounces) but added 8 ounces of chopped leek. I used 30 oz / 850g of frozen spinach, 4 Tbs. of olive oil (instead of 4.5 Tbs.), 600g of cottage cheese (instead of 24 oz / 680g), and two German packs of feta (400g instead of 9 oz / 255g).  I cut back on the milk (3 cups instead of 4), increased the dill a bit (maybe 3/4 of 1 tightly packed cups?), and added a little bit of chopped parsley.  I used a bit more nutmeg than the recipe calls for (1/2? tsp.) and cut the salt back as well (1 tsp. instead of about 2 tsp.).

I skipped all the soaking/separating steps in the original recipe, and just layered the filling onto the crisp matzoh. I used a deep lasagne pan and made three layers, ending with the filling (not the matzoh).  Since the dish was deeper than normal it took longer to cook, maybe 45 minutes to an hour.  But it turned out really well.  Everyone seemed to enjoy it and the 13 of us at the seder polished off almost the entire thing.

I still want to try replacing some (or all) of the milk with buttermilk or maybe thinned yogurt.

Update May 2014:

Here’s the non-kosher-for-passover, simplified version I made today, but multiplied by 1.33. The lasagne was a bit short and we ate it up quickly (one dinner and two lunches). Derek only rated it a B this time, not quite sure why the rating went down. Maybe I cooked it a bit too long?

It would be nice to get at least one more meal out of the dish, thus I’m multiplying everything below by 1.33 because I want to try adding another layer next time:

  • 1.33 very large leek, white and light green parts, chopped (about 400g edible part)
  • 1.33 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 900g frozen chopped spinach, thawed [maybe next time try 1kg?]
  • 50g frozen chopped dill (I used a box of frozen pre-chopped dill)
  • 25g mixed chopped herb (from another frozen box)
  • 533g 4% cottage cheese (about 14 oz.) [I actually only had about 440g]
  • 1.333 cup whole milk
  • 5 large eggs (about 250g total without the shells)
  • 2/3 teaspoon grated nutmeg [next time try 3/4 tsp.]
  • 1.33 teaspoon pepper
  • 267g feta, crumbled (about 9.4 oz) feta
  • 9 whole wheat lasagne noodles

Instructions:

  1. Wash and chop the leek.  Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Get out a 13-by-9 inch (3-quart shallow) baking dish.
  2. Saute the leek with the oil and salt in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, 12 to 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, add the cottage cheese, milk, eggs,  nutmeg, and pepper. Use a stick blender to  purée until smooth.  Use a bit of the mixture to “grease” the bottom and sides of the baking dish.  Crumble in the feta and add the chopped dill.
  4. When the leek is golden, add the spinach to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add the spinach mixture to the large bowl with the milk mixture. (Add it slowly so that the milk doesn’t curdle.)
  5. Arrange 3 lasagne noodles in the baking dish. Pour in one third of the spinach filling. Cover with 3 more noodles, then pour in another third of filling. Add the final three noodle, and end with a final layer of spinach filling.
  6. Cover the dish with tin foil and bake tightly covered for 30 minutes.  Uncover, reduce the temperature to 350 and cook until golden and set, about another 20 to 25 minutes. Cool 10 minutes.

It should make 8 servings.  Maybe I should actually multiply it by 1.5 and get 9 servings out? But maybe then I’d need to add one more layer of noodles?

 

5 Comments

  1. Vegetarian Passover 2009 « From the kitchen of a captious vegetarian said,

    […] Main course:  spinach matzoh pie […]

  2. Adrienne said,

    Thank you for this recipe. I made it with leeks instead of onions and with homemade matzoh (from brooklyn). It was great.

  3. A lasagna for every season « The captious vegetarian said,

    […]  Spinach matzoh lasagna. Veggies are onions (or leeks) and spinach. Herbs are dill (or parsley and […]

  4. What I’ve been eating lately « The captious vegetarian said,

    […] made the passover spinach lasagne again, but with whole wheat pasta noodles instead of matzoh.  I didn’t pre-cook the noodles […]

  5. Passover 2013 | The captious vegetarian said,

    […] course:  spinach matzoh pie  and […]

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