If you’re looking for a wow-worthy dessert, look no further. Kunafa is not only visually appealing and delicious, it has a long and interesting history that would be sure to generate a fun conversation around any table.
Kunafa is an ancient and wildly popular middle eastern dessert made with shredded phyllo dough, cheese, nuts, and sugary syrup. The recipe varies from region to region, but has very similar ingredients throughout the middle east. It appears that the exact origin of this dessert is subject to some debate, but it has been mentioned as a popular food since as early as the 10th century. The millenium-long popularity of this dessert proves that kunafa is a tasty treat that stands the test of time.
½ 16 oz box of kataifi* (shredded phyllo dough), thawed
1 stick of melted butter
1 c. whole-milk ricotta cheese
2 c. shredded mozzarella
¼ c. sugar
Pistachios, for topping
Rose Water syrup:
1 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. rose water
Juice from one lemon
¾ c. water
*Kataifi can be found in the freezer section of most Middle Eastern markets
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a deep pie pan with butter so that the pastry does not stick.
Make the rosewater syrup by combining the sugar, rose water, lemon juice and water together in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a bowl and allow it to simmer until thickened, or about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Use a food processor to chop the shredded phyllo dough into smaller pieces and place in a bowl. Pour the melted butter into the dough and mix thoroughly with your hands. Place half of the dough firmly into the button of the pie pan, squishing it down all the way around the bottom.
Mix the ricotta, mozzarella and sugar in a separate bowl and then spread the cheese mixture over the dough in the bottom of the pie pan. Place another layer of the dough on the top and smash down firmly.
Bake the pastry for 20-25 minutes, or until the dough is lightly browned and the cheese is bubbly. Carefully remove the pastry from the pan, place on a platter and pour cooled rose water syrup over the top. Top with pistachios. Slice and serve hot.