I first tried a sweet version of noodle kugel when I was in College and fell in love with it…now I’m one of those types of people that will find any excuse to make one, especially when I have a little more time to try some new twists that I may come up with for both sweet and savory versions. Several months ago, my friend Randy asked me to develop a savory recipe for him and I recently had the time to put one together. One thing I will say about making a good kugel, how you put it together is important, in addition to how long you cook your pasta. If you are not careful it can taste like a dense and gluey mess, but if done correctly it will taste like a firm pudding.
When I set out to create the savory version, I wanted to incorporate the same ingredients but I needed to reduce the cooking and setting time to prevent it from getting too dense. I decided to use a béchamel sauce as a base which held it together beautifully, and since it was partially cooked already, it cut way back on the cooking time preventing it from becoming overly dense. I decided to use a little sour cream and cottage cheese for extra creaminess and the filling included finely diced mushrooms, chopped spinach, sun dried tomato, chopped parsley, crispy bacon pieces, finely diced onion with a little garlic along with some grated and shredded parmesan cheese. I added the grated parmesan to the béchamel, and the shredded parmesan on top. For something a little different, you can add some ground up mini Ritz crackers as the topping with a little drizzled butter before baking. This is a recipe that you can make uniquely yours and simply use the base and add the quantities of whatever fillings you want. It slices beautifully and is light, fluffy and delicious. Serve this as a light lunch or dinner with a great salad or grilled vegetables.
Savory Noodel Kugel
10 oz bag of wide egg noodles
2 cups cremini mushrooms, finely diced
1 cup cooked chopped spinach (if using frozen, make sure to squeeze out all of the water)
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
½ to ¾ cup crispy bacon pieces
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, finely chopped
½ cup sour cream
½ cup small curd cottage cheese
2 cups shredded parmesan or coarsely chopped Ritz crackers (or you can choose a gooey cheese instead!)
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
Chop up the bacon, cook until crispy, drain on a paper towel to remove excess oil and set aside. Cook the pasta to al dente according to package instructions and drain into a colander but DO NOT rinse them, simply coat them with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil so that they do not stick together. Drizzle the oil onto the pasta in the colander and toss the noodles well.
Next prepare the filling. Add the olive oil to a large skillet and add the diced onion and garlic until lightly caramelized then add all of the mushrooms. When sautéing mushrooms, they require a good bit of oil, so if you find they look ‘dry’, add a little more. Saute this together with the onion until the mushrooms begin to caramelize and then add the spinach and toss well. Lastly add the drained bacon bits and then add in the pasta, the sun dried tomatoes and the parsley and toss all of this well together then add the sour cream and the cottage cheese and set aside. Taste for S&P but remember there is a good bit of salt in the béchamel from the parmesan cheese.
Next make the béchamel sauce and toss this into the pasta mixture in the large skillet.
Pour this into a well greased 10”x10” baking dish or you can add this into individual ramekins, either way works well. Top with your shredded cheese, crushed Ritz crackers or a finely shredded mozzarella and bake in a 350°F oven for 5-10 minutes until the cheese has softened or melted.
You do not need to cook this very long because everything is already cooked, you just want to heat this through to set the béchamel and melt the cheese. Serve with a great salad or grilled vegetables…SO delicious!