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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Savoring Passover: The Delight of Matzo Pizza

During Passover, Jews get creative with matzo, turning the unleavened bread into culinary delights like cheesy lasagna, peanut brittle, homemade pasta, and even pizza.

For 10-year-old Hudson Greenstein, matzo pizza is a favorite. Two years ago, while craving pizza during Passover, he and his father visited Nick’s Pizza & Ice Cream in Armonk, N.Y., where Hudson got the idea to sell matzo pizza. Last year, he organized a pop-up called Yalla Matzah Pizza at the restaurant, using Nick’s sauce, ingredients, and oven to create a thin-crust pizza on Streit’s matzos. The demand was so high that he started a second pop-up at Frankie’s Pizza & Restaurant in Merrick, N.Y.

Hudson’s venture is just one example of the creative ways people incorporate matzo into their Passover meals. Matzo, a staple during Passover, symbolizes the Israelites’ liberation from slavery in Egypt, as they left in such haste that their bread didn’t have time to rise.

While many buy store-bought matzo, Streit’s, a family-owned company, produces millions of boxes of matzo for Passover each year. Bakers at its factory in Orangeburg, N.Y., begin making matzo as early as October, ensuring it’s mixed and baked in under 18 minutes to prevent fermentation.

Matzo’s neutral flavor makes it a versatile ingredient, leading to various creative recipes. Michele Streit Heilbrun, a cousin of the Streit family, even wrote a cookbook titled “Matzo: 35 Recipes for Passover and All Year Long.”

Matzo pizza, in particular, has become popular among American Jews. Silvia Nacamulli, author of “Jewish Flavours of Italy: A Family Cookbook,” recalls making matzo pizza with her family in Rome as a child. Today, she makes it for her daughters in London, following the style of a margherita pizza.

However, not all Jewish communities embrace matzo pizza. Hasidic Jews are cautious about putting liquid toppings on matzo to prevent fermentation.

For many, matzo pizza is a nostalgic American Jewish dish. Jake Cohen, author of “I Could Nosh: Classic Jew-ish Recipes Revamped for Every Day,” remembers eating matzo pizza as a child in Bayside, Queens. While his mother used jarred tomato sauce and Polly-O mozzarella, Cohen now elevates the dish with homemade sauce, quality cheese, basil, jalapeños, and honey.

According to Jordan Rosenblum, a religious studies professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, matzo has a rich history dating back 2,000 years. Initially resembling a pita, ancient matzo has evolved into its current cracker-like form, allowing for a multitude of toppings and recipes.

Matzo pizza, with its blend of tradition and innovation, embodies the spirit of Passover—a time for celebration, reflection, and culinary creativity. Whether enjoyed in New York pizzerias, Roman kitchens, or London homes, matzo pizza continues to bring families together and honor the traditions of the holiday.

Matzo pizza serves as a delicious reminder of the resilience and ingenuity of the Jewish people, transforming a simple flatbread into a beloved culinary tradition passed down through generations.

Jonathan James
Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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