Cook: Potato embargo makes spud more popular during Pesach

I have a pre-Passover ritual you won’t find in any religious guide: I stop serving my family potatoes a week or two before the holiday. That’s because potatoes are my everyday Pesach secret ingredient.

Inexpensive and versatile, they are the perfect solution to meal planning when bread, corn, pasta and other staples have been banished. Limiting potato consumption beforehand seems to make the tuber’s frequent appearance during Passover more appealing.

Potatoes and sweet potatoes have appeared in many forms during the holiday at our house, but the Passover Gnocchi recipe below is a favorite, preferably smothered in tomato or pesto sauce.

The Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie is a colorful and tasty main dish at Pesach or anytime. The recipe does contain cumin, which some religious authorities consider kitniyot and unacceptable for Passover. If that is an issue, omit the cumin during the holiday.


Passover Gnocchi

Makes 80 dumplings

2 lbs. russet potatoes, baked, cooled and peeled

2 eggs, beaten

1 tsp. salt, divided

1⁄4 tsp. ground black pepper

about 3⁄4 cup matzah cake meal, plus additional as needed

Mash potatoes until smooth. Mix in eggs, 1⁄2 tsp. salt and pepper. Add 1⁄4 cup matzah meal, stir until absorbed. Add 1⁄4 cup more and stir until absorbed. Stir in additional 1⁄4 cup. Begin to knead with hands until well combined and a soft dough has formed. Knead in more matzah meal as needed until a bit of the dough rolled into a ball is not sticky.

Divide the dough into 8 equal parts. Dust dry work surface with matzah cake meal. Roll out one part into a log about 1⁄2 inch wide and 12 inches long. Cut into 10 pieces and roll into evenly sized ovals. Place gnocchi in single layer on baking tray. Repeat with remainder of dough.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1⁄2 tsp. salt. Add a fourth of the gnocchi. Once the gnocchi float to the top, cook for 2 minutes more or until cooked through. Scoop out with slotted spoon. Toss in oil or sauce to prevent from sticking and keep warm. Return water to a boil. Repeat until all the gnocchi are cooked.

Freeze uncooked gnocchi in a single layer on baking tray and then remove to a freezer bag for storage. Do not defrost. Cook as above until cooked through.


Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

Serves 4

3 Tbs. oil, divided, plus additional for baking dish

2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and boiled

1 tsp. paprika, divided

1 tsp. salt, divided

1 tsp. ground black pepper, divided

1 cup vegetable stock

1⁄2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro, divided

1 cup chopped onion

2 tsp. minced garlic

1⁄4 tsp. ground cumin (optional)

1 finely chopped jalapeño (seeded if desired)

1⁄2 cup chopped carrots

1⁄2 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped red bell pepper

20 oz. ground turkey

11⁄2 cups diced tomatoes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 8×8-inch baking dish that’s at least 2 inches deep. Mash potatoes with 1 Tbs. of oil, 1⁄4 tsp. of paprika, 1⁄2 tsp. of salt and 1⁄2 tsp. of pepper. Stir in enough stock to make a creamy and smooth mixture. Mix in 1⁄4 cup cilantro.

Heat 2 Tbs. oil in large skillet, add onion and garlic, sauté until golden. Add remaining 1⁄4 tsp. paprika, 1⁄2 tsp. salt, 1⁄2 tsp. pepper and cumin (if using). Add jalapeño, carrots, celery and red bell pepper. Sauté until vegetables soften.

Add turkey, breaking up any clumps. Sauté until browned. Add tomatoes and 1⁄4 cup cilantro. Sauté until meat is cooked through. Put meat in greased baking dish, top with sweet potatoes, sprinkle with remaining paprika. Bake until heated through and slightly browned, about 1 hour.

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. She blogs at Contact her at [email protected]

Faith Kramer
Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” Her website is Contact her at [email protected].