Growing up on the coast of Southern California, I was pretty far removed from my father's native Brooklyn neighborhood. However my Mississippi-born mother made sure to close some of that distance with one delicious Jewish recipe she adapted from her mother-in-law. Savory noodle kugel is as comforting and cozy as it gets.
Like all great casseroles, kugel has many variations, incarnations and riffs. Some insist on sweet kugel, dotted with raisins, sour cream and cinnamon, others put whole sticks of butter into the batter (my post-Thanksgiving Day ill-fitting pants commanded me to strongly eschew the latter recipe!) and there's my Mom's take, a savory noodle pie full of salt, pepper and simplicity. Whenever I have leftover pasta, some manner of this kugel enters my belly, sometimes with thrown in bits of vegetables and the final remains of a cream cheese tub or cottage cheese container.
This kugel is a wonderful side dish to a holiday meal or served in larger portions, can steal the show when accompanied by a bright tangy salad. It's superb on the reheat (it makes a marvelous breakfast slathered with jam) and is in fact better if you can make it a few hours, or even a day in advance, as it really has the chance to set up and become one delicious, starchy mass. Granted this dish isn't going to win any beauty contests, but in matters of comfort food, flavor trumps vanity. Each time I slice into a kugel, I can't help but think of my Episcopalian-born mother, shining in all of her Southern hospitality and laughter, serving up a slice of her husband's culinary history. Their stories and backgrounds couldn't be more different, but my parents certainly came together on the importance of homemade meals and thus, our family dinners became their religion.
2 cups cooked noodles (egg noodles are traditional, but my Mom always used whatever leftover pasta we had on hand)
3 tablespoons full-fat Greek yogurt (sour cream or cottage cheese will work too)
1/2 teaspoon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a casserole dish (mine is 6 x 10") generously with butter. Boil noodles until al-dente, strain from cooking water and reserve. Whisk eggs, yogurt, mustard, salt and pepper until combined. Pour pasta into egg mixture and mix until combined. Pour noodle/egg mixture into prepared pan and bake for about 35 minutes, until tops of noodles are golden and egg is set. Serve hot or cold with lots of extra salt and pepper.
Related: Recipe for Passover: Matzoh Brei
(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)