By Kelly Youngblood
“Homemade noodles for Thanksgiving — what is the deal with that? It’s such a Midwest thing. It’s really a Central Illinois thing. I don’t get it.”
This is a question I received from a dear friend, who has lived in the Champaign-Urbana area for more than a decade, but grew up in the Chicago suburbs. I figured the next thing she’s going to tell me is she’s never heard of tater-tot casserole.
As a near-lifetime resident of the Champaign-Urbana area, I found the question very puzzling.
How can made-from-scratch noodles be a foreign concept? You really don’t know the “deal” with homemade noodles?
The deal is, they are one of the tastiest carbo-licious dishes a Thanksgiving dinner can offer.
Right up there with dressing and mashed potatoes and gravy, noodles are a top contender for best side dish in my book.
Personal disclaimer: While we don’t typically do homemade noodles in my family at Thanksgiving, a bag of frozen Reames egg noodles, boiled in chicken stock and seasoned with turkey “drippings”, has been a staple at every Thanksgiving dinner I can remember.
However, M-A-N-Y people I know make their noodles from scratch every year and wouldn’t do it any other way.
It struck me as odd that homemade noodles, or noodles at Thanksgiving in general, might be regarded as a regional tradition. To me, homemade or not, noodles and Thanksgiving go together like New England and clam chowder or Wisconsin and cheese.
Are homemade noodles a Midwestern thing? I don’t know. We are well known for our comfort foods and most people I know have a list of go-to casserole dishes.
Is it a Central Illinois thing? Maybe. Perhaps it’s our proximity to Amish country, where people regularly use flour, eggs and yeast to create delicious savory and sweet items from scratch that inspire us to do the same at home in our own kitchens.
Unsure of the origins of homemade noodles, my friend’s question gave me pause. So I did what anyone these days would do with a burning question — I opened it up for debate on Facebook.
Nearly 60 comments later, I came to a realization. Most of the people I know are adamant about their homemade noodle ritual.
And most of those die-hard noodle fans are from or currently reside in the Central Illinois area.
In my very unscientific opinion, it sounds like a direct correlation to me.
I also noticed most of the self-professed noodle makers mentioned how important the tradition itself felt.
“I use my grandma’s recipe” or “My mom/dad make the best noodles” was said quite frequently. It seems the tradition is as important to some as making their favorite Christmas cookie.
Of course there were a few who had never made a noodle in their life or ever even entertained the idea. My West Coast friend that hails from California was clearly baffled by the notion. “People actually make noodles?” she wondered.
A couple more thought noodles might be carb-overkill and rather pointless in a Thanksgiving meal, but conceded they might be a nice compliment to the leftover repertoire.
For those of us who have always had noodles at Thanksgiving, we would never relegate them to the leftover category so quickly…just saying.
I myself have never made noodles from scratch, but from what I hear it’s not too difficult. All you need is flour, eggs, salt, a rolling pin…and maybe a little help from a Midwestern friend. (OPE!)
If you’re feeling up to the challenge, here’s a homemade noodle recipe you can try, thanks to local Leslie Myers:
Homemade Noodles: Grandma Martha Jarvis’ Recipe
Make and cook, or freeze for later use. The trick with making noodles is the broth!
3 1/2 c flour
4 eggs beaten
3/4 stick of butter, melted but cool.
2 tbsp. cold water
Combine ingredients in order & mix into a dough. Split dough in 1/2. Flour counter and dough ball. Roll with rolling pin until 1/8″ thick. Dust with flour and roll up to cut into noodles. Repeat this with the other half of the dough. Cut about 1/4″ wide.
Unroll each noodles slice and tear into 1-2″strips. You can add them straight to the boiling broth, or let them dry so you can freeze them in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag. Boil for about 20 mins or so, and turn down heat and simmer til done. Taste them to check.
Kelly Youngblood is a freelance writer and a mom to three wild and wonderful children. She has lived in the C-U area for most of her life and just might try to make homemade noodles this Thanksgiving.