Taking Refuge

Could I Have Some [More] Kugel?

January 28, 2015

My grandma is not a refugee. She is not an asylee. She is not even an immigrant. Born into a Jewish family lucky enough to have fled Europe prior to World War II, she took her first breaths in America and has lived here ever since.

Nevertheless, her cooking embodies the highlights of traditional Ashkenazi (Jews of Eastern European descent) cuisine. And I, like all Jewish granddaughters, am sure that my grandma (Nana) makes the best pot roast, the best chicken soup, and the best kugel.

A Yiddish word derived from German, kugel literally means "sphere, globe, ball," referring to the round dish in which it was originally baked. While often described as a "baked pudding," kugel is not your average chocolate pudding. [Hint: there is no chocolate in this pudding at all.]

Typically, made from either potatoes or noodles, kugel can be sweet or savory. It is often served as a side dish at the Jewish Sabbath and holiday table, stemming from the mystical belief that a kugel imparts spiritual blessings . Though, as many kugel recipes have become sweeter over time - incorporating more fruit and sugar alike - the weak-of-heart may question whether the dish was intended for the dessert table instead. Still, one can find an awfully good Yerushalmi (Jerusalem) kugel - or straight up salt-and-pepper kugel - at several joints including the Peppermill and Hungarian Kosher Catering in Brooklyn.

My Nana's recipe - which she had gotten from her neighbor at the time - has also changed over the years. Following an unexpected outbreak of hives, she immediately switched the recipe's apricots to apples and white sugar to brown sugar. Later on, she decided to throw some pineapple in too. Her sister manipulated the recipe further, using cottage cheese for an even richer, creamier flavor.

While I tried to poke my family for some more kugel anecdotes, I hit a bit of a brick wall. While my mom claimed that all her kugel-cooking extravaganzas went smoothly (to be fair, it is an easy recipe...), all my dad had to say was: "I [just] eat it and enjoy it."

Potato or noodle. Sweet or savory. Baker or consumer. Make, taste, and enjoy them all. But, first, be sure to try my Nana's recipe below. Passed down between three generations to date, I promise that my grandma's recipe is the best.

Noodle Kugel
  • 1 lb medium egg noodles, cooked according to package instructions
  • 2 large baking apples, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 1 20 oz. can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 lb melted butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 350 ° F.
  2. Grease the pan(s) heavily. Depending on how thick you would like your noodle kugel, you may choose to use one or two pans. I prefer a thinner, crispier kugel, so I like to use two pans. This recipe fits perfectly in two 12x9 lasagna tin pans (tin pans make for an easy clean up). However, if you have a ceramic, glass, or metal pan, this will enhance the texture of your kugel.
  3. Combine the beaten eggs, sliced apples, pineapple, melted butter, and brown sugar.
  4. Pour mixture over cooked noodles and combine thoroughly.
  5. Pour into pan(s).
  6. Bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until the top of your kugel has attained a nice golden color. If you really enjoy a crisp kugel, you may even want to brown the top further, like my mom does.
  7. Cool and refrigerate or serve immediately. This recipe also freezes quite well if you prefer to bake ahead.
  8. Enjoy!