A couple months ago, I was developing a recipe for two-ingredient chicken noodle soup. This is just the sort of challenge that my weekly column, Big Little Recipes, loves—making chicken stock about the chicken, not the onion and celery (and carrot and bay leaves and peppercorns). And yet: What turned out to be the most thought-provoking wasn’t the chicken stock at all. It was the noodles.
When do I cook them? And where? And how?
The most logical approach is: To make noodle soup, add noodles to soup. In other words, cook the noodles in the broth itself, then ladle the whole shebang into a bowl and serve. Not only does this sidestep another dirty pot, but it infuses the noodles with flavor. Win-win, right?
I wasn’t so sure. First, what happens to the leftovers? The good news is, broth is more than happy to hang out in the fridge or freezer. The bad news is, the noodles are not happy to hang out in the broth in the fridge or the freezer. Even by tomorrow morning, they’ll be swollen, soggy, and mushy. (Just think about when you cook noodles for even a few minutes too long.)
And what about the seasoning? If you’re cooking egg noodles in chicken broth, they’ll take on a subtle chicken-iness. But I’m more concerned about the salt. Whenever I cook pasta, I estimate a heaping tablespoon kosher salt per quart of water. It goes without saying: This would be waaaaaay too salty for a broth. So, if you cook the noodles in the broth, either the broth needs to be oversalted, or the noodles will be bland.
By cooking noodles in a separate pot, you’re giving them the best chance to become the best version of themselves—well salted and well cooked. After boiling the noodles, I like to drain them, add a portion to each bowl, and ladle broth (and whatever is in the broth) on top. Then, the broth and noodles can be stored in the fridge separately—and still-perfect noodle soup can be repeated for days to come.
Now that’s a win-win.
How do you make noodle soup? Tell us in the comments!
Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles on the fly, baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., and writing about the history of pie in North Carolina. Now she lives in New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's award-winning column, Big Little Recipes (also the cookbook in October 2021!). And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.