There was an old commercial that used the phrase, “you don’t have to be Jewish to love…” In that case, during the 1960’s and ’70s, it was Levy’s rye bread. Now it’s just as good a tag line for this Savory Noodle Kugel.
By the way, if you’re curious about the Levy’s rye bread ads, or remember them fondly, look up Judy Protas. She created the famous ads and many others. A real life Madison Avenue ad exec. I do wonder if she was the model for Peggy in Mad Men.
The kugel or noodle pudding is an adaptation of an adaptation of a recipe which is itself is an adaptation. I’m not sure what that makes it, but I give credit to my friend Sarah Struble. She took Joan Nathan’s recipe, adapted from a Larchmont, New York temple community cookbook and made it truly scrumptious. The original recipe was called “Exciting Baked Noodles,” but I find this version much more so (exciting, that is.)
If you love food pics you should follow Sarah and her beloved, Matt, on Instagram. For absolutely adorable dog pics, follow their fabulous labradoodle, Watson the Muppet. (You may notice that Watson has more followers than Sarah, Matt and me. What can I say?) And now, back to our lead story, the Savory Noodle Kugel that won my heart.
Joan changed that name to “Exciting Noodle Kugel” and kept two of the recipe’s “secret” ingredients, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco. Her version is on the New York Times cooking app, behind a paywall, so I won’t bother linking to it.
Sarah adapted Joan Nathan’s version by cooking the onions before adding them and by doubling the amount of Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, and Parmesan cheese.
I changed Sarah’s recipe in three ways, by:
- Deleting one ingredient (chives in Joan’s version, scallions in Sarah’s).
- Clarifying the instructions on how to make Sarah’s version.
- Adding weight measures for most of the ingredients because weights are more precise than volume measurements.
This Savory Noodle Kugel isn’t the prettiest dish in the world. The final result is what I would term a “shaggy, craggy, lovely homey-looking casserole.”
And generally, I’m on Team Sweet when it comes to kugel. But shaggy as it is in appearance, and filled with onion and garlic rather than sugar, I still enjoyed this savory version. And so did my beloved, who scarfed it up.
Kugel is a generic term for “pudding” in Jewish Ashkenazic cooking. Noodle or lokshen kugel generally have dairy in them, as does this one. From that point on, they are as varied as there are people who make them. This one is simple, easy, and delicious. Despite my preference for sweet, this kugel is a winner in my book.
Tips for Making Savory Noodle Kugel
- The onion is key. Cut the slices thin, using a well-sharpened knife. If your onion is huge, do quarter moons instead of half moons. In any case, make the pieces thin. They don’t have to be fully caramelized, but you want to cook the onion slices on a medium low heat until they are nice and brown.
- Cottage cheese and sour cream. You might be tempted to use skim or low fat. I suppose using 1 low fat and the other full fat wouldn’t be terrible tasting, but honestly, this dish is better with the “real deal” when it comes to cottage cheese and sour cream.
- Worcestershire and hot sauce. These are the “secret ingredients” that take this dish up a notch. Using real Worcestershire makes the kugel umami-rich because Worcestershire contains anchovies. (Food52 has a good list of Worcestershire substitutes.) The anchovies mean that this dish is pescatarian but not vegetarian. If you want to make the kugel vegetarian, use one of the alternatives with soy sauce or a vinegar-based substitute. As for hot sauce, take your pick. I used Tabasco, because that’s what I grabbed. But any good hot sauce will work. For amounts, let your tastebuds be your guide. Just know that the dish did not taste spicy or hot with the amounts specified.
- Order of preparation. I cooked my noodles first. But you could do the onions and garlic, prep the dairy ingredients and condiments, and do the noodles last. Whichever order you do them in, you’ll be putting some parts of the recipe aside while you prepare others. That’s fine. These ingredients are forgiving, as is the final product.
- Serving right away or saving? This is a make-ahead special. I like to make Savory Noodle Kugel ahead of time and reheat it in the oven or microwave to warm or piping hot. My mood dictates how hot it gets on reheating. And while the microwave works well for single servings, it doesn’t crisp up the top as the oven does. You can freeze it, well-wrapped, too. It’s better to defrost it first, before reheating.
Savory Noodle Kugel
A simple and delicious savory noodle pudding (kugel) with just a few ingredients and lots of oomph.
- 8 oz wide egg noodles 227 g
- 1& 1/2 cups sour cream (preferably full fat) 340 g
- 1& 1/2 cups small curd cottage cheese (preferably full fat)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, preferably extra virgin, divided
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced into half moons about 9 oz/256 g
- 1-2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or minced
- 1 & 1/2-2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2-4 dashes hot sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
- 1/4 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated, divided 1 & 3/4 oz/50 g
Preheat oven to 350° F/180° C. Generously oil a 9"/23 cm square pan with sides about 2"/5 cm with 1 tablespoon of the oil. See note.
Boil water in the large pot and cook the noodles to al dente. This generally takes only about 5 minutes. When done, rinse the noodles with cold water in the colander and set them aside.
While the water is boiling for the noodles (or while the noodles cook), heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the sliced onion and cook slowly on medium low heat for about 10-12 minutes until beginning to turn golden brown. Stir occasionally with a silicone or wooden spatula. Then add the garlic and continue cooking for 45 seconds - 1 minute. Set aside.
Mix the dairy ingredients, Worcestershire and hot sauces, half the cheese, and the onion. Stir. Add the noodles and stir until well combined.
Pour the thick mixture into the oiled pan and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Bake 35-45 minutes, until the top begins to brown.
You can use a different 10-cup pan. If you use a larger one, the kugel will be too thin, A smaller pan would yield a thicker kugel that takes longer to bake and isn't as crunchy because there is less surface area. See this handy guide for ideas on similar size pans.