Around the 16th century, Eastern Europeans started making filled pasta; probably the influence of both the Tartar invasion from Asia in the East and Italy in the South. Regardless, this was innovative. As hard as it is for us to imagine, it hadn’t occurred to the people of Northern Europe to boil their pasta; they were frying it up to this point. Boiling, as opposed to frying in fat, was far cheaper, and from that point forward boiling pasta – both filled and unfilled – became a mainstay of Northern and Eastern European cooking.
Kreplach, a meat-filled pasta, became a much-beloved Ashkenazi dish. Though noodle making was a weekly occurrence in most Jewish homes, it was time-consuming. Kreplach, which involved making pasta and filling as well as shaping, was even more time consuming, thus saved for special occasions such as lifecycle events and holidays.
The three times of year most associated with Kreplach were the meal just before the fast of Yom Kippur, Hoshana Rabba – the seventh day of Sukkot – and Purim. On all three of these days, we are meant to feel God’s love and protection enveloping us as the dough envelops the filling of the kreplach.
The traditional way of making Kreplach involved rolling by hand. Thus, oil was added to the pasta dough to help in the rolling process. Not only is our flour finer but using a pasta machine for the rolling means that the process should be far easier than using a rolling pin.
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 250g (8 ounces) ground beef
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat a large saute pan. Once hot, add oil and heat until shimmering. Add the onion and saute until golden brown; about 7 minutes. Add the beef and cook until browned all over. Season with salt and pepper, cool completely before using to fill the kreplach.
- Prepare pasta dough as directed in “Homemade Noodles” recipe. Roll out thin sheets of pasta either with pasta maker or with a rolling pin. Cut out as many 9cm (3.5 inch) circles or squares as the dough will provide. Put one heaping teaspoon of filling in the circle/square, dab the edges lightly with water and shape into a triangle (fold in half diagonally if using a square or fold 3 sides inwards if using a circle).Repeat with remaining dough.
- Once all your kreplach have been filled, place on a well-floured board and cover tightly. They can be stored in the fridge for up to two days or in the freezer for up to one month.
To cook kreplach:
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add about 5-6 kreplach at a time to boiling water. Drop into water and cook for 3-4 minutes until pasta is cooked through. Remove kreplach from water using a slotted spoon, drizzle with vegetable oil to keep them from sticking to each other. Repeat with remaining kreplach.
- At this point the kreplach are ready. However, kreplach can be further sautéed before serving. To sauté, heat oil over a medium flame in a large skillet and sauté the boiled kreplach until golden brown on both sides.
- If you have frozen your kreplach, do not defrost. Cook directly from frozen and add another minute to cooking time.