March 12, 2014

A Family Recipe: Calsonness with Noodles

I am very proud of myself this week; for the first time I made a recipe for which you have to make a noodle dough: cheese stuffed in dough, called calsonness in my Sephardic Jewish home, and very similar to cheese ravioli; it's interesting to think of the food correspondences between cultures. This dish is a real comfort food, like macaroni and cheese. The calsonness and noodles are boiled separately, mixed with butter, then combined in a baking dish and baked.

I realize that this recipe isn't one that many of you will try, but I have to assure you that making the dough is easier than you might imagine. For about 40 calsonness you'll need:

2 1/2 cups flour
1 egg, beaten
1/4 teas salt
1 cup water

Mix the first three ingredients in a bowl, then add water to make a soft dough; it might be a little less or more than a cup. Knead the dough until soft and elastic, at least 8 minutes. Let the dough rest in a covered bowl for an hour.

While the dough is resting, prepare the cheese:

1 lb muenster cheese
1 egg
pinch of salt

Mix ingredients together.

When the dough has rested, roll it out into a thin sheet, about 1/8 inch thick. If the dough is resistant to rolling, let it rest a few moments. Place heaping teaspoons (actually I used about 2 teaspoons) at the top edge of the dough about 3 inches apart.

Fold the dough over the cheese, leaving some dough around it.

Cut out the calsonness into half-ish circles; I used a 2 3/4 inch cookie cutter. Press the edges together to be sure of a tight seal. You can reuse the pieces of leftover dough, kneading it slightly and rolling it out again.

I prepared the calsonness a week before I put the recipe together, so I froze them on waxed paper. When they were fully frozen I packed them in a plastic bag.

I want to make a little detour for a story. After I'd finished making the calsonness, I was sure that I hadn't done it quite right, and wished I'd been in the kitchen with my mother when she was making them. There's nothing like seeing something done that helps in the making of them. Recently, I was helping my mother make some of the pastries you see above, sambousak. They can be filled with either meat or cheese. They have a different kind of dough that you spread in your hand rather than roll out. I was fumbling with the dough while watching my mother's adept hands, and what I really had a hard time with was the elegant twists of dough at the pastry's edges. I was making very ugly sambousak and my mother nearly banned me from the kitchen. But after watching over and over and trying over and over, I finally got it and I was thrilled. Whether I'll be able to repeat it on my own is another question.

Preheat oven to 350º

  • To make a dish that serves 3 or 4 use about half the calsonness recipe––for me that was 21 pieces––and boil them till near tender, about 5 minutes. I plopped them frozen right into boiling water....and none of them broke or exploded or fell apart! 
  • While hot, mix with 2 Tbs cut-up butter, until it melts.
  • Boil 12 ounces of wide egg noodles until al dente; mix them with 2 Tbs butter. 
  • Put the noodles in a large baking dish, then place the calsonness on top of them. (I made a mistake in baking the dish: I didn't place the noodles in the bottom layer so they got too crispy as you can see from the first photo.)
  • Bake for about 45 minutes, or 30 minutes covered if you'd prefer the calsonness and noodles to remain soft. 

Enjoy a comforting meal.


  1. Altoon, a wonderful "kitchen" story with your mother—
    she with swift, elegant "twists" of the dough as you "fumbled"
    making "ugly" sambousak. I saw you as a child learning from her
    that it has to be beautiful.

    1. I feel very lucky to have such a wonderful cook and person in my mother. She's passed on the cooking gene to all her children.