Eleanor, as we've discussed, was Polish by heritage, if not by birth. As a first-generation American, though, I'm sure her childhood meals were mostly comprised of Polish-type foods. I'm especially sure of this, because even my childhood meals often included slightly Polish foods: I was the only person in my first-grade class to have ever even heard of a pierogi, and I remember eating potato pancakes fairly frequently as a kid, too.* And every year until she died, Eleanor and her friends made sauerbraten and potato dumpling, curing the meat for days before inviting all of their friends over for a massive feast.
So when I found the recipe for Baked Noodles Romanoff in the box, I wasn't surprised-- it sounds like a Polish dish (creamy noodles with bread crumbs? Duh.) and even the name sounds pretty Eastern European (although I assumed it was based on the Russian Romanovs-- of Anastasia fame-- which is most decidedly is not). In fact, for awhile I even thought it was just going to be a savoury kugel (a Jewish dish made with egg noodles, a custard-y base, and garnished as you like), but then I realised that kugels containing cottage cheese are probably pretty rare.
So, you ask: if it's not a kugel, then what is it? In short, Noodles Romanoff is basically a cross between a kugel and a meatless stroganoff. It's insanely easy, super comforting on a rainy autumn night, and, though it was delicious on the night we made it, it was even better tonight, topped with a soft-boiled egg and a ton of red pepper. It's sort of like a fancy man's 'refrigerator pasta,' where you just use up whatever is in your fridge about to go bad and mix up a bowl of pasta to go with it, but it's way more delicious. It may not be healthy, but with a sauce made of cottage cheese, it's still not as bad as a cream-based pasta dish could be.
I looked it up to see if this was a common dish in Poland or otherwise, and I was surprised to learn that it was a pretty popular meal in the mid-20th century. So popular, in fact, that almost the only reference to it that I can find on the internet is a reference to Betty Crocker's boxed Noodles Romanoff mix. (This is all news to me; I just assumed that, much like Pollo Alla Verona, this recipe was just kind of a made-up one). So if you remember days of eating Noodles Romanoff from a box, or even if you don't, try this dish. It's easy, it's delicious, and you get to mix up a bunch of spices like a mad scientist, so you know it's gonna be fun.
*I kind of forgot about pierogis, until we moved to Edinburgh, where there's a strangely high proportion of Polish grocery stores that sell the best pickles I've ever tasted and all the possible types of pierogis you can imagine. Also, Judson's Polish hairdressed introduced him to Polish vodka shortly after we moved here, and our lives (not to mention our Moscow Mules) haven't been the same since.
4 spoons out of five. This was really good, but the leftovers kind of required the egg to make it moist enough to enjoy for a second time. However, it's one of those 'set it and forget it' meals, where you can put it in the oven, wash all the dishes you dirtied, and finish just in time to eat it in your sparkling clean kitchen. It's definitely worth making, and who knows-- your version might even beat out Betty Crocker's!
Baked Noodles Romanoff
Cook noodles according to directions on package.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 176C/350F and grease a casserole dish or deep-dish pie pan.
Mix together bread crumbs, spices, and parsley, then set aside.
Drain noodles and combine with cottage cheese, sour cream, and parmesan.
Pour mixture into prepared casserole and top with prepared bread crumbs.
Bake 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and delicious.
8 oz. egg noodles
8 oz cottage cheese, beaten or whizzed in the food processor until smooth
8 oz sour cream
½ c parmesan, grated
½ c bread crumbs
1 tsp parsley
Spices of your choice
Spices I used:
You don't need all of them, just whatever you want to use!