Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Soup with Sweet Potato Knaidlach (Matzoh Balls)

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Yield: About



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“Let the sky rain potatoes,” Shakespeare’s Falstaff cries out in quest of aphrodisiac aids. The old lecher was calling for sweet potatoes, the more common and accepted potato of the time (the word “potato” did not refer to the white tuber until around 1775, according to the Oxford English Dictionary).

To the Jews around the globe who readily embraced the sweet potato and the other imports from the New World, pumpkins and squashes, the rapidly growing vegetables evoked not amour exactly, but abundance and fertility.

In Jewish communities from Morocco to Melbourne, these vegetables are especially prized during the fall holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot, when their sugary flesh, reflecting the many colors of the sun, symbolizes the sweetness and the seasonal plenty of an abundant harvest.

The sweet potatoes I’ve added to my Polish grandmother’s recipe for matzoh balls (knaidlach) softly echo the pureed golden vegetables that give this soup its delicately sweet edge and velvety smoothness.

Scarlet seeds from a pomegranate hanging in your sukkah or some diced red onions add crunch, tang, and a burst of color.

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Matzoh Balls

  • 1 large sweet potato (about 1 pound)
  • 2 tablespoons sautéed onions (reserved from preparing the soup)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • Nutmeg, preferably freshly grated, to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½–¾ cup matzoh meal


  • About ½ pound onions, chopped ( cups)
  • 3 tablespoons mild olive or vegetable oil
  • pounds sweet pumpkin or butternut, kabocha, hubbard, or other sweet winter squash, halved and peeled, seeds and strings discarded, flesh cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large sweet potato (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 7–8 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade, or good-quality low-sodium canned
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Pomegranate seeds or minced red onion, for garnish (optional)


  1. Start the matzoh balls. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Prick the sweet potato with a fork and bake it for 1–1½ hours, or until tender.
  2. Meanwhile, make the soup. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, cook the onions in the oil over moderate heat, stirring, until pale golden. Reserve 2 tablespoons for the matzoh balls. Add the pumpkin or other squash and sweet potato to the onions in the saucepan and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Stir in 7 cups of the broth and simmer over moderately low heat, partially covered, for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are very tender. In a food processor or a blender, puree the soup in batches until smooth. (If you have an immersion blender, you can puree the soup right in the pot.) Return the soup to the saucepan and add salt if needed and plenty of black pepper. Thin the soup if you wish with some of the remaining 1 cup broth, and set it aside.
  3. Make the matzoh balls. When the baked sweet potato is cool enough to handle, peel it. Force the sweet potato and the reserved 2 tablespoons cooked onions through a ricer or food mill fitted with the medium disk into a bowl. Stir in the egg, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Add ½ cup of the matzoh meal, or enough to make a soft dough, and refrigerate the dough, covered, for at least 1 hour or overnight. Shape the mixture into 16 walnut-size balls, transferring them as they are formed to a wax paper—lined plate.
  4. In a large, wide pot, bring 4 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon of salt to a rapid boil. Slide in the balls, one at a time. Reduce the heat to moderately low, cover the pot, and simmer the balls for about 20 minutes, until light, fluffy, and cooked through. Don’t lift the lid to peek—they need all that steam to puff up.
  5. When the matzoh balls are ready, warm shallow soup bowls and heat the soup until hot. Using a skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer 2 matzoh balls to each heated bowl. Ladle the hot soup over them, and garnish each serving with a scattering of pomegranate seeds or minced onion, if desired.