Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Homemade Spätzle - Cook It 2012: January Resolution

Freshly made Spätzle
I've never been very good at making resolutions for the coming year. Never mind about keeping to them. It isn't that I don't try new things or get a lot done, because I do; but let's just say my creative eye tends to wander in new directions. Constantly.

So I was charmed by Grow It Cook It Can It's simple approach: to master a new kitchen technique each month of the year. I eagerly hopped on board Cook It! 2012.

The cold nights of January definitely deserve pasta, so the first month's challenge was a shoe-in. In fact, I had been thinking about and pinning lots of homemade pasta recipes already. Ravioli, paparadelle, linguine.... I had visions of dough dancing in my head. But, I decided to go with something a little closer to home for my first fresh pasta foray: Spätzle (also Spaetzle, the 'ae' being a written substitute in German for the umlaut).

Zum Wohl! Family gathering in Germany (mit Bier u. Spätzle)

My mother is from southern Germany—Swabia to be precise—where Spätzle reigns. My Oma (grandmother) and virtually all my relatives regularly made it as a side dish, and you could always bank on it being there on the plate with Schnitzel for special occasions.

I've helped make it countless times in my mom's kitchen, but I am embarrassed to say even though my mom sent me home a Spätzle press as a gift direct from the homeland a couple summers ago, I had yet to use it for Spätzle in my own kitchen. Though I have used it as a potato ricer a time or two.

Beckoning to be used

Though my Mom's typical presentation at home is with goulasch (this has remained my chosen birthday meal since childhood), I'm just covering a recipe for the noodles here plus a couple simple ways to serve them.

It takes just four basic ingredients!

Mix in the eggs stirring from the center out

Slowly add in milk or water as you beat the batter

Once consistency is smooth & somewhat stretchy, it's ready to go

Filling the press

Make sure water is rapidly boiling before adding noodles

Spätzle in the making

Noodles are ready when they rise to the surface

Repeat with rest of batter

Two batches of Spätzle

Beautiful bowl of freshly made pasta

Mom's Recipe for Spätzle
(Proportions adapted from metric measurements, there is room for experimentation if you want)

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk (or water), plus 1-2 tablespoons as needed to reach right consistency

Optional: A small pinch or grating of fresh nutmeg can be added to the flour mixture before mixing in the wet ingredients.

Sift flour into a large bowl. Stir in salt. Make an indentation in the middle of the flour and add eggs.

Stir from center out and add liquid gradually to avoid clumps. You want consistency to be moist but not wet, so gauge your milk/water quantity accordingly. If you your dough seems too moist, just add a bit more flour, or vice versa if too dry, add more milk.

Beat batter with a wooden spoon until smooth and it begins to stiffen up. (Spätzle stirring was hands-down my favorite kitchen job as a kid!) Let dough rest for approximately 5 minutes and spoon into Spätzle press. Drop noodles into large pot of rapidly boiling water. The Spätzle will rise to the surface when cooked. Remove them and place in a sieve or collander to drain. Repeat until all Spätzle are cooked. If serving plain you can drop the entire batch into boiling water very briefly to warm up, but not for too long or they will get soggy. Strain and serve.

Serves 2-4 generously

Simply delicious!
If you are going to eat the Spätzle as a side dish, depending on what they are accompanying you can leave them plain (best if serving with rich sauce or meat) or top them with a bit of butter, salt and pepper to taste, and serve. You can also lightly pan fry them in a little oil or butter and top with fresh herbs such as parsley and chives or dill.

I tend to like them plain or more simply prepared, but if you prefer you can saute thinly sliced yellow onions until golden brown and lightly carmelized and then bake the noodles with cheese (Emmenthaler or similar, or Quark if you can find it from a local cheesemaker) and onions for a German-style cheesy casserole dish: Käsespätzle. Peas can be a nice flavor addition too, or you can add chard or zucchini. Really, have fun with them the way you would another type of pasta and find the way you like them best.

Käsespätzle with a chicken breast "Schnitzel"
Don't own a press? No problem. It's traditional to hand-cut Spätzle, though it does take a bit of getting used to since the dough is moister and stickier than Italian pasta, and therefore cannot be rolled out. It's simplest to spread the dough on the edge of a wooden cutting board (use one with a handle if you've got it), and while resting the board on the edge of the pot, cut and swipe pieces of dough directly into the boiling water. You can experiment with the ratio of ingredients a bit to get the consistency you find easiest to work with - generally batter with more eggs is a bit fluffier in the finished product but more flour makes easier work of cutting it.

Guten Appetit!

Next up, February's Cook It! resolution is bread. I have yet to decide exactly what type I'll be tackling, but it will most likely put my sourdough starter to use.


  1. Thanks Michi - so surprisingly simple too!

  2. Looks so yummy! Do you think a potato ricer would work or are the holes just too small?

  3. It's certainly worth a try KN... It depends on the style ricer you have probably. I have a feeling the noodles would be very thin and therefore not quite as tasty and chewy, but you never know!

  4. BTW, your orecchiette bolognese looked incredible!