The first time I was served kugel, I was very young and eating dinner at a friend’s house. Her mom made brisket and kugel for dinner and, while I liked the brisket, I kept clear of the kugel. A noodle casserole? A sweet noodle casserole? Were they kidding? Fortunately, her mom wasn’t offended that I didn’t want to try it right off the bat and managed to convince me to taste a bite.
I’m glad I did!
Kugel is a traditional Jewish casserole that can be made in a huge variety of different ways. It can be sweet or savory, and can be made with noodles, potatoes, matzoh, bread or other starches as a base – not entirely unlike a bread pudding. That first kugel I had consisted of egg noodles cooked with milk and cream cheese, sweetened lightly with sugar and cinnamon. I’ve had many other kinds, but this is still pretty much my favorite.
This recipe is one I put together after seeing a recipe in Bon Appetit a few years ago where the noodles were not precooked before adding them to the casserole dish. This saves a lot of time and the noodles cook perfectly as the whole kugel bakes. I use cream cheese, some sour cream and add vanilla and a bit of sugar to my kugel. The flavor reminds me a little bit of cheesecake, but the whole thing is pretty unique to kugel. I also add a topping made with crushed cornflakes (or bran flakes, whatever I have on hand), brown sugar and cinnamon, which gives the kugel a nice little crunch and an extra bit of sweetness.
I tend to make a batch of this around Hannukah – especially if I need something to bring to a potluck holiday dinner – but it is good all year round. It can be served both warm and cold, and makes for great leftovers, too.
Cream Cheese Noodle Kugel
8 ounces wide egg noodles
1 cup raisins
1/3 cup sugar
3 large eggs
3 large egg whites
8-oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
4 cups milk (whole or low fat)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups crushed cornflakes (approx 2 cups uncrushed)
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with cooking spray or butter.
Spread egg noodles into the prepared baking dish in an even layer. Sprinkle raisins over noodles.
In a large bowl, beat together sugar, egg whites, eggs, cream cheese, sour cream, melted butter, milk and vanilla until very smooth. Pour over noodles in baking dish.
In a small bowl, mix together crushed cornflakes, brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle evenly over noodle and milk mixture.
Bake for 60 minutes, until kugel is set and begins to pull away from the sides of the baking dish slightly.
Serve warm or cold.