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May 2021
Knafeh topped with chopped pistachios
Suggested by Nida Kiali
Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilization

Knafeh is a cheesy pastry soaked in rosewater and honey syrup and toped with roasted pistachios. Each bite is filled with tradition, history, a fusion of flavors and great familial moments and festivities.I grew up eating knafeh almost weekly. It's a dessert that doesn't need an occasion to be served, though it's quite popular during weddings, holidays, or even given as a gift.

Many countries across the Middle East claim that knafeh originated in their region, and its pronunciation varies greatly from region to region: k-na-fe, kunafe kinafeh, kuneefa, kunafah etc.. Despite the controversy over its origin, it remains one of the most delicious Middle Eastern desserts!


  • 1 box of shredded phyllo dough (kataifi). Can be found in Mediterranean grocery stores.
  • 1 container ricotta cheese (15 ounces)
  • 1.5 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 12 ounces unsalted butter (2 sticks), melted
  • 1 cup of powdered sugar

       For the syrup:

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 teaspoon rose water (can be substituted with orange blossom water)
  • 2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Preheat oven to 385 degrees F
  • Place all syrup ingredients in a pan and bring to boil over a low heat, until the syrup slightly thickens.
  • Place the shredded phyllo dough in a food processor and finely chop. Place the fine dough in a large bowl. 
  • In a separate bowl, mix ricotta, sugar, and mozzarella
  • Add the melted butter to the dough and mix well until it is fully absorbed.
  • Place 3/4 of dough in a well buttered 9x13 pan. (I use a springform pan) and press into the bottom.
  • Spread the cheese mixture evenly on the top of the dough
  • Spread the remaining dough on the top of the cheese until the cheese is fully covered.
  • Bake for 30 minutes or until the edges turn golden-brown.
  • Remove the knafeh from the oven. Use a knife to release the edges. Place a large plate on top of the pan and invert the pan.
  • Add the syrup and top it with pistachios. (optional)

Saha wa hana (Arabic:health, and happiness)

See "Treats from Faculty Bakers" for more recipes.