For most kugel lovers, the very best version is whatever you grew up eating. Whether you were raised on savory, schmaltz-laden potato kugel or sour cream-slathered noodle kugel dotted with raisins, there's very little crossover where kugel is concerned.
This recipe is for all the sweet noodle kugel enthusiasts out there. A mix of wide ribbons of egg noodles, sour cream and cottage cheese, it's about as classic as the dairy-filled versions come.
It's also adaptable. You can add raisins or other dried fruit, or skip them entirely. Feel free to use more sugar or less, depending on your taste, and, while I think a little cinnamon is nonnegotiable in every noodle pudding, you can substitute other spices or even grated lemon zest to brighten everything up.
To make the interior as plush and cheesecake-like as possible, I purée the cottage cheese and sour cream until silky. But, if you prefer obvious curds strewn amid the curling noodles, skip that step and just whisk together the eggs, cottage cheese and sour cream before mixing in the noodles. Should you find a brick or two of old-fashioned farmer cheese, you can substitute it for the cottage cheese. It makes for a slightly firmer, milkier kugel with a mild tang.
As for a topping, some kugel cooks like to sprinkle cornflakes, breadcrumbs or chopped nuts over the pudding. But even easier — and I think better — is to leave the noodles exposed. In the oven's heat, their tips singe and brown, turning irresistibly crisp. A little melted butter drizzled on before baking is all you need to help this along. Just try not to pick them all off the top before serving.
My Aunt Martha used to take her crunchy kugel to the furthest degree, baking her noodle mix in muffin cups when I was growing up, which made them crisp through and through. Another crunch-forward strategy is to spread the mixture in a shallow sheet pan instead of a casserole dish, increasing the surface area.
For this recipe, which could be lovely for a celebratory Hanukkah dinner, I kept the casserole dish in play. Its depth gives you a contrast between the creamy, supple underlayer of kugel and its pleasingly golden crown of noodle shards on top. It's arguably the best of both worlds, a classic iteration for the noodle kugel universe.
Classic Noodle Kugel
Serves 8 to 12.
With its wide ribbons of egg noodles bound by cottage cheese, sour cream and eggs, this classic dairy kugel recipe celebrates the sweeter, richer side of noodle puddings. You can make it the day before, store it in the fridge, then reheat it in a 350-degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes just before serving. But it's also great at room temperature. Blending the cottage cheese gives this version a smooth, almost cheesecake-like interior. For a more nubby texture with bits of cottage cheese peeking through the noodles, don't use a blender; just whisk everything together in a big bowl. From Melissa Clark, New York Times.
• 1/2 tsp. fine salt, plus more as needed
• 10 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, divided
• 12 oz. extra-wide egg noodles
• 2/3 c. raisins or diced dried apricots, dates, apples or prunes, optional
• 6 large eggs
• 2 c. cottage cheese
• 2 c. sour cream
• 1/3 to 2/3 c. light brown sugar, depending upon desired sweetness
• 1/3 c. whole milk
• 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, cardamom or ginger or a combination, or use grated lemon zest
• 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg or black pepper, optional
Place a rimmed sheet pan in the oven and heat to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Grease a 2 1/2-quart baking dish or a 9- by 13-inch pan with 2 tablespoons melted butter.
Add noodles to the boiling water and cook according to the package directions until just tender. Put the raisins or dried fruit, if using, into a colander.
As the noodles cook, combine the eggs, cottage cheese, sour cream, sugar, milk, cinnamon, nutmeg or pepper (if using), and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a blender or food processor. Pulse until well combined. Pulse in about 6 tablespoons of the butter, saving about 2 tablespoons for the top of the kugel.
When noodles are done, drain them in the colander over the raisins. The boiling water helps plump the raisins. Add drained noodles (and any raisins) to a large bowl, add the cottage cheese mixture, and use a spatula to mix well.
Scrape into the prepared pan, evenly spreading out the noodles. Drizzle with remaining melted butter. Place the kugel on the baking sheet in the oven. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until the top is browned in spots. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.