Knafeh (Shredded Phyllo-and-Cheese Pie)

Active Time: 20 MINTotal Time30 MIN
Yield: Serves : 8

Michael Solomonov, chef at Zahav in Philadelphia, and Reem Kassis, author of The Palestinian Table, formed an unlikely friendship around their shared, though much disputed, food heritage. They both love this knafeh, a sweet, cheese-filled dessert, encased in shredded phyllo pastry (kataifi) and soaked in a fragrant syrup laced with rose and orange blossom.


  • 2 cups superfine sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water
  • 1/2 teaspoon rose blossom water
  • 3/4 cup ghee or unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing
  • 16 ounces low-moisture part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 4 cups)
  • 9 ounces ricotta cheese (about 1 cup)
  • 1 pound frozen kataifi (shredded phyllo pastry), broken into 3/4-inch pieces and thawed
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped salted roasted pistachios

How to Make It

Step 1    

Bring sugar, 1 1/2 cups water, and lemon juice to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Let syrup cool completely, about 30 minutes; stir in orange blossom water and rose blossom water.

Step 2    

Preheat oven to 400°F with oven rack in bottom third of oven. Generously grease a 13- x 9-inch pan with ghee or butter. Stir together mozzarella and ricotta in a medium bowl until combined; cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Step 3    

Using your hands, mix together kataifi and melted ghee in a large bowl until combined. Scatter half of the kataifi mixture into prepared pan, pressing firmly with your hands to evenly cover bottom. Dollop spoonfuls of cheese mixture evenly over top, and, using damp hands or an offset spatula, spread in an even layer. Scatter remaining kataifi mixture evenly over filling, and press firmly.

Step 4    

Bake in preheated oven on lower rack until cheese has melted and crust is golden brown, 25 to 35 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack 5 minutes. Invert pie onto a serving platter. Immediately drizzle with enough of the cooled syrup to soak the cake (about 11/2 cups). Sprinkle with pistachios, and serve with remaining syrup.

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