Dessert: Kunafa (Knafeh) [ Mahmoud Abdalrahman, Math Department faculty]

Knafeh is a popular dessert in the Middle East. There are many variations on the recipe and different regions have different names or pronunciations for it. The following recipe is based on the Palestinian Knafeh Nabulseyeh (from Nablus), but for convenience cooked in the oven rather than the traditional method on woodfire or stove-top. 



  • 9” shallow baking pan (about 4-5 servings)



The Syrup:



  • Sugar (1 cup)
  • Water (1 cup)
  • Vanilla (1 tsp)
  • Orange blossom water (1 tbsp optional)
  • lemon/lime juice (1 tbsp)



  • In a small saucepan, add the water and the sugar and heat on medium high until boil
  • Let it boil gently on medium low heat for 5 min, then add the vanilla and orange blossom water then let it boil for another few minutes
  • Add the lemon juice, let it boil for 5 min then turn off the heat and set aside to cool down. The consistency should be a little thick after cooling


The Knafeh:

  • Knafeh raw shredded pastry (10-12 oz). It can be found in most Middle Eastern stores and comes in 1 lb portions
  • Melted butter (6-8 tbsp)
  • Ackawi cheese (12-14 oz). You can substitute with fresh mozzarella
  • Ricotta (0.5 cup). This is optional, but adds richness to the flavor
  • Chopped pistachios for garnishing




  • Multiple hours before you start, chop the Ackawi cheese into 0.5-1 inch cubes and soak in water, making sure to change the water multiple times throughout in order to remove the salt. Skip this step if using fresh mozzarella that is not very salty.
  • In a food processor, add the raw Knafeh pastry, along with the melted butter and process to the filaments size is small and the pastry is coated with butter
  • Sprinkle some of shredded Knafeh in the 9” baking pan to barely cover the bottom
  • Strain and squeeze the soaked cheese to get rid of excess water and chop or break into small pieces
  • Distribute the Ackawi cheese evenly in the pan followed by the ricotta
  • Layer the rest of the shredded and buttered Knafeh pastry on top of the cheeses and pack it evenly and tightly with the palm of your hand, making sure the edges are tucked in and no filaments are sticking out
  • Bake in a preheated oven at 375 F for 20-25 min or until golden brown
  • Take out of the oven, place on a flat surface and pour the cooled syrup evenly over it
  • Garnish with chopped pistachios and serve Knafeh slices while the cheese is still hot

The Food Issue

In this issue we celebrate the world of food. In putting it together, we visited alumni at farms as close as Mattapan and as far away as Downeast Maine. We spoke to chefs who’ve chosen diverse culinary paths and to alumni who, during challenging times, created a platform for sharing recipes and memories that are keeping them closer together. These stories help remind us that food nourishes not only the body but also the soul, keeping friends and families close. As the renowned food writer MFK Fisher wrote: “I think our three basic needs for food and security and love are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others.” The stories and individuals featured in this issue echo that sentiment.