I’ve been meaning to try making spaetzle for years. It’s one of those yummy foods that sounds complicated, and you can’t often find on a regular basis, so if you want it, you have to figure out how to make it. I’ve carried a spaetzle maker in my shop for years hoping that one day soon I would find the inspiration and time to try it. Recently while on a weekend trip to Chicago I ordered a dish called Portobello Paprikash with Spaetzle. The dish was delicious enough to inspire me to take a spaetzle maker home.
What is spaetzle? It’s a little egg-based noodle or dumpling made in boiling water and basically, the basis for any sort of gravy, butter, or sauce. It’s of German origin—apparently, spaetzle means “little sparrow,” but a true modern spaetzle looks more like a cross between a dumpling and pasta. They taste like an egg noodle and go with almost anything. Spätzle is served with any number of stews, braised dishes, and goulashes. It does a great job of holding on to rich sauces and holding up to hearty meats. Another popular way to serve it is as Kässpätzle, alternating layers of buttered spätzle and melted cheese topped with frizzled onions.
Lo and behold, spaetzle, like most ethnic comfort foods, spaetzle isn’t really hard to make at all. And like most basic side dishes, it consists of very basic ingredients: eggs, flour, milk or water, and salt. Although I made mine using an official spaetzle maker, legend has it you can use a regular colander and just pour the batter in and push it through with a spoon or spatula.
• 4 eggs
• ¾ cup milk
• 2 Tablespoons olive oil
• 2 cups flour (white whole wheat!)
• ½ teaspoon salt
• Butter for on top
Mix everything together in a bowl (except the butter) with a whisk. Apparently, it helps to let the mixture sit for a half hour or so, so do this before you put the cooking water on to boil
Put a large pot of water on to boil
After the water is boiling, start pouring the mixture into the spaetzle maker and push it through. When the spaetzle rises to the top, skim it off with a skimmer and put it in a strainer to let the water drain. This takes from 1 to 3 minute. Cooking a whole batch of spaetzle using this recipe will take you 5 to 10 minutes.
Transfer the spaetzle to a serving dish, melt the butter, and pour over the top. Chop some herbs or, better yet, serve it baked into a rich, cheesy casserole that, served with a side salad, is the ultimate comfort food.