It's always a good time for a baked pasta dish—especially one spiked with Cointreau, bacon and brown sugar. Kugel, a Jewish casserole that can be either sweet or savory, is particularly delicious on a cold winter night (read: Hannukah). This version comes from notable Israeli-born chef Alon Shaya, whose use of pumpkin pie spice makes the dish even cozier than it was before. It's just a taste of what you'll find in his eponymous cookbook, one of the best cookbooks to hit shelves this year.
Pumpkin Spice Kugel
Recipe from Shaya: An Odessey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel by Alon Shaya
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours and 20 minutes
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, divided, plus more for the pan
2 yellow onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
Zest of 1 orange
½ cup orange juice
¼ cup Cointreau
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons Morton kosher salt, divided
1½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
3 tablespoons plus 1 cup all-purpose flour, divided
2 cups milk
¼ cup honey
10 ounces bacon, finely chopped
1 cup chopped pecans
⅓ cup light brown sugar, packed
4 quarts water, plus more for a water bath
1 pound dry fusilli noodles
2 egg yolks
3 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus more for dusting
1½ cups sour cream
1. Heat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the bottom. Pull out a 13-by-9-inch baking dish or a 2-to-3-quart casserole dish as well as a larger, deep roasting pan that will hold it; set them both aside for later.
2. To make the orange béchamel: Combine 8 tablespoons of the butter in a saucepan with the onions and ginger over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and translucent but no color has formed, 15 minutes or so. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the orange zest and juice, Cointreau, 2 teaspoons of the salt, and the pumpkin pie spice. Return it to medium-low heat and simmer for 5 minutes or so, until most of the liquid has reduced.
3. Use a whisk to gradually incorporate 3 tablespoons of the flour, then whisk in the milk and honey. Bring the sauce to a simmer and continue to cook for 10 minutes, whisking frequently to ensure that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat and cool completely.
4. Fry the bacon in a skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently. After about 10 minutes, when the fat has rendered and the bacon is golden and crisp around the edges, stir in the pecans and toast them in the bacon’s fat for another 2 minutes or so. Take the pan off the heat and add the brown sugar and remaining 4 tablespoons butter. Stir until all the butter melts and set aside. Once it’s cooled to room temperature, carefully stir in the remaining flour until it’s thoroughly combined.
5. In a large pot, combine the water with the remaining 2 tablespoons salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook the pasta until it’s fully tender (softer than al dente) but not falling apart, 10 or 11 minutes. Strain and reserve.
6. With a handheld mixer or a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the whole eggs, yolks, and granulated sugar together on high speed for about 5 minutes, pausing occasionally to scrape the sides of the bowl. You’re looking for the mixture to be pale and thick; when you lift the beater, it should fall in ribbons and not drip. Mix in the sour cream until it’s fully incorporated, then do the same with the orange béchamel. Fold in the cooked pasta by hand.
7. Grease the casserole dish with butter and coat the inside with a thin, even layer of granulated sugar, shaking out any excess. Pour in the noodles and evenly spread the bacon and pecan mixture over the top. Set this dish into the larger roasting pan and pour hot water all around it so comes about halfway up the sides. Bake for about 1 hour, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean and dry. Kugel can be served warm from the oven, at room temperature, or straight out of the fridge, and it will keep for a couple of days.
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