If there's anything friendlier than noodle kugel, I haven't found it. Sure, cheese blintzes and ricotta-filled crepes come close, but kugel, kugel is a thing apart. And don't even talk to me about potato kugel. My heart belongs to the noodle.
This humble Jewish holiday food earns top honors for two good reasons: First, egg noodles don't have attitude. They're not whole wheat rotelli or spinach tortelloni or sun-dried tomato capellini. They're just egg noodles: soft, slippery, extra wide. Like a cozy sweatshirt, or that hole-riddled cardigan your grandma knit with the sleeves that are way too long, but you wear it anyway because she always offered you Andes candies when you'd come to visit and it's the only thing left that reminds you of her. They're like that.
This is not the time for any al dente business either. Cook the noodles till they shimmy and shine.
Second, the cottage cheese and sour cream get sweetened with a little sugar. I know, I know, is this a side dish, or a dessert? Exactly! That's the beauty of noodle kugel. It can be anything you want it to be. But please, don't even think about going fat-free. Using fat-free dairy in kugel is like making a fat-free cake. It's untenable, not to mention ill-advised. Here's my suggestion: for breakfast, have a bowl of shredded wheat with skim milk, sprinkle it with flax seed, and then fold all your laundry. There. Now you're healthy, and you've done a good deed.
Carte blanche to toss full-fat sour cream and cottage cheese in the kugel.
The best kugel I've had, the kugel to end all kugels, is my Grandma Arline's. She's actually my step-grandma, but why fuss with semantics? I don't really remember any kugel before Arline's, and that should tell you something.
That said, I'd be a liar if I said I didn't tweak it just a little bit.
Recipe for Grandma Arline's Noodle Kugel, tweaked
Exercising patience before cutting into this isn't easy, but if you care about neatness and presentation, you'd be wise to make it the night before and refrigerate it overnight. It's much easier to cut neatly when cold. Re-warm (covered) before serving. Arline tops hers with crushed cornflakes, but I leave them off. The choice is yours.
Serves 8 to 10
8 ounces extra-wide egg noodles
4 eggs, separated (you'll use all 4 whites but only 3 yolks)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1/4 teaspoon salt
16 ounces cottage cheese
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
Pinch cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, for dusting on top
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 13x9x2-inch baking dish.
Cook the egg noodles in a large pot of boiling water according to package directions. Drain and rinse in cold water.
In a large mixing bowl, gently whisk the 3 egg yolks. Slowly add the melted butter and salt, and whisk well to combine. Add the cooked noodles, stirring to coat.
In a medium bowl, stir together the cottage cheese, sour cream, and sugar. Scrape into the bowl with the noodle mixture and give everything a good stir.
In a clean, dry mixing bowl fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites with a pinch of cream of tartar until stiff peaks form. Fold gently into the noodles. Spread into the baking dish and smooth the top. Dust with the cinnamon.
Bake in the center of the oven for 45 minutes. Serve warm, or refrigerate overnight (cool to room temp first), cut into squares, reheat, and serve.