Syrup-Soaked Cheese Pastry (Knafeh)
Syrup-Soaked Cheese Pastry (Knafeh). Eilon Paz

In this recipe, kataif, a bird’s nest-like phyllo dough, is layered with fresh cheese and doused in amber-hued syrup. This recipe first appeared in our May 2013 issue with Gabriella Gershenson’s article The Promised Land.

Knafeh (Syrup-soaked Cheese Pastry) Knafeh (Syrup-soaked Cheese Pastry)
Bird’s nest-like phyllo dough is layered with fresh cheese and doused in amber-hued syrup in this Middle Eastern pastry.
Yield: serves 10-20


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. red food coloring, optional
  • 12 cup whole milk
  • 3 tbsp. semolina
  • 1 lb. whole-milk ricotta
  • 1 lb. kataif (shredded phyllo dough), crumbled
  • 2 cups unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing
  • 14 cup minced pistachios


  1. Boil sugar and 12 cup water in a 2-qt. saucepan; cook, stirring until sugar is dissolved, 1-2 minutes. Stir in juice and food coloring; set syrup aside. Boil milk and semolina in a 1-qt. saucepan; cook, whisking, until slightly thickened, 1-2 minutes. Whisk in ricotta; set mixture aside.
  2. Heat oven to 350°. Lightly grease a 9″ x 13″ baking dish. Toss kataif and butter in a bowl until butter is absorbed; press half into the bottom of the dish. Spread ricotta mixture evenly over kataif; top with remaining kataif. Press layers firmly together. Bake until crisp and golden, 1-1 12 hours. Let cool to room temperature. Transfer cake to a serving platter. Spoon syrup over the top and sprinkle with pistachios.