The Jew And The Carrot

Five Ways to Add Italian Flavor to Passover

By Marcia Friedman

  • Print
  • Share Share

When it comes to Passover, the same treasured foods grace tables every year. Matzah ball soup. Gefilte fish. Brisket. Roast chicken. Growing up, my husband’s family table was no different. I, however, grew up Italian and later converted to Judaism. Our Passover meals now not only include the customary Jewish dishes, but also some of my Italian flavoring as well.

Passover traditions limit how Italian we can go, of course. But beyond the Italian penchant for homemade bread and pasta, there are other foods often universally beloved that add some Italian flair. Here are my top five.

1.Go Tomatoes
Although only introduced to Italy in the 16th century, tomatoes eventually became widespread and strongly associated with Italian cooking. For Passover, try a tomato-braised chicken or brisket dish. The red color enlivens the dinner spread, but foremost, tomatoes offer bright, Mediterranean flavor to awaken the senses. Plus the acidic juices can help produce tender meat.

My favorite recipe is Chicken Cacciatora, or “hunter’s style” chicken, with some roasted peppers and a few modifications to be kosher for Passover.

2.Make a Matzah Pizza
Matzah works surprisingly well as a pizza base as long as you eat the pizza promptly. And it might be closer in spirit to the original Neapolitan crispy thin pizza crust than many of the thick bready crusts we use in the United States. But the best part is that you can be creative in topping your blank canvas with whatever you want—and you don’t have to wait for your dough to rise.

3. Reach for Ricotta
Upgrade any meal with ricotta. If you are having a vegetarian Seder, ricotta can complement and enhance a wide variety of dishes. Otherwise, fold it into your matzah brei or scrambled eggs. Spoon some on matzah and top with smoked salmon. Sweeten and combine it with dried or fresh fruit. Or dollop it on that aforementioned matzah pizza.

Kosher for Passover ricotta is hard to find, so if you follow strict kosher rules or you simply want something spectacularly fresh, make your own. Here’s one recipe.

4.Add Artichokes
This Mediterranean vegetable, prized by ancient Romans and appearing often in the cuisine of Italy’s Jews, is in its delicious prime right now. The hearts are ubiquitously (for good reason) folded into dips, which can you can scoop up with matzah crackers or vegetables. Steaming or braising also work very well, and cooked artichokes can be served warm or at room temperature.

5.Finish with Fruit and (More) Wine
Fruit is often featured at the end of meals in Italy. And at the end of a long and heavy Seder dinner, sometimes fruit is just what’s needed to cleanse the palate and tell a tummy full of matzah that it all will be okay.


*A platter of washed and sliced fruit, splashed with a squeeze of lemon and garnished with a little fresh mint. Strawberries, pineapple, kiwi, mango and apples are good options.

*Dark- and white-chocolate-dipped fruits, such as strawberries, orange slices or dried apricots.

*A bowl of macerated (or marinated) fruit. Combine two or three kinds of fruits (like a mixture of berries), cut up any large pieces so the bites are even-sized, sprinkle with sugar and drizzle on a little kosher for Passover white wine or the fresh orange or lemon juice. Refrigerate for one to three hours, removing from fridge about 20 minutes before serving. Taste and add more sugar if needed.

Chicken Cacciatora
Recipe courtesy of Marcia Friedman from Meatballs and Matzah Balls.

Colorful, tender, flavorful “hunter’s style” chicken did not originate as a Passover dish. But I find the Italian tomato-braised chicken stew a welcome addition to the holiday table. I like adding roasted peppers for their color and sweetness. For best results, allow yourself time to cook the stew over very low heat (see note). You can also make it ahead and gently reheat before serving.

3 large bell peppers (ideally 1 each of red, orange, and yellow), halved
Extra-virgin olive oil
Canola or other good frying oil
A 4-pound chicken, cut up, or 4 pounds mixed skin-on, bone-in chicken pieces, patted dry
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large red onion, halved and sliced (about 2 cups)
2 large garlic cloves, sliced thin
1 tablespoon matzah cake meal (or all-purpose flour when not Passover)
½ cup dry white wine (such as Pinot Grigio)
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted) with their juices
½ cup no-salt added tomato sauce
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped (optional)

Preheat the broiler. Arrange the peppers cut side down on a baking pan covered with foil. Brush the peppers lightly with olive oil. Broil until the skins are mostly blackened (8 to 15 minutes). Remove and cover with foil for about 15 minutes. Remove and discard charred skins and slice the peppers into strips.

Heat a layer of canola oil in a large nonstick pan with a lid (preferably a Dutch oven) over medium-high heat. Add a single layer of chicken pieces and season lightly with salt and generously with pepper. Brown both sides. Remove and repeat with remaining chicken. When cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin (this keeps the stew from being greasy).

Add the onion to the empty pan and sprinkle lightly with salt. Cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat and scraping browned bits from the bottom of the pan until the onion starts to soften (2 to 5 minutes). Add the garlic, and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute, until fragrant. Sprinkle the cake meal or flour over the vegetables, and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 to 45 seconds. Stir in the wine, tomatoes, sauce, pepper strips, and chicken and its accumulated juices, submerging the chicken. Cover loosely and simmer over low heat, stirring a couple of times, until chicken is tender and at an internal temperature of 165 to 170 degrees (about 40 to 50 minutes, but longer if heat is very low). Remove from heat and stir in the basil. (If making ahead, wait to add the basil until just before serving.)

Yield: 6 to 8 servings (Meat)

Note: To cook over very low heat, a flame tamer or heat diffuser can help moderate the heat on the stovetop. Use an instant-read thermometer to monitor doneness and adjust heat as needed to keep the cooking on track for your timetable.

Chag Sameach and Buon Appetito!

Marcia Friedman is a food writer, editor, photographer, home cook, and recipe developer. She’s savored delving into both Jewish and Italian culinary traditions in creating the cookbook Meatballs and Matzah Balls: Recipes and Reflections from a Jewish and Italian Life. She continues writing about the intersection of Jewish and Italian food and life at Photo Credit: Marcia Friedman

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tomatoes, Passover Recipe, Italian Passover, Chicken Cacciatora

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight":
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here:
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.