Spaetzle…(Spätzle)…is a staple in my kitchen, as much as it was in my mother’s kitchen.
My mother was from Germany. Oma, Opa, and my mom lived in Schwäbisch Hall, Baden-Württemberg, Germany when my mom was growing up. Mom married an American soldier and moved to the United States, to start their own family on a little farm in Michigan. By the time I came into the picture (sixth child), Oma and Opa had moved to a small village, also in Baden-Württemberg, called Kurzach.
I can remember visiting Kurzach as a child, the narrow, winding roads through hilly forests. Cottages and barns with stone foundations and steep roofs. Timbered supports on the walls, rolling exterior shutters on the windows. Gardens and livestock in town. Cows were wintered in their barns because the snow gets too deep on the steep hillsides. Flowers everywhere. In gardens, in windows, in pots. Needless to say, it made a lasting impression on my as a child.
German food also made a lasting impression on me, and today I’m going to share spaetzle with you. Literally translated, spaetzle means “little sparrows” and long before gadgets were created to make noodles, they were formed with a spoon, or by hand. The shape of the noodles made this way, gave way to the name. The noodles reminded people of the fat little sparrows commonly seen pretty much everywhere.
My mother routinely prepared German cuisine for our family, and spaetzle was a common dish. When I was little I used to think everyone had spaetzle for Sunday dinner!
There is no “one” right way to make the noodles and there is no “one” right way to put your recipe together.
There are several methods of making the noodles. You may use a press, a mill (I have never seen this method done in person), a slide, by running a scraper over a flat colander, or by cutting the directly off a board into the pot. I use a spaetzle press (which resembles a large, heavy-duty potato ricer), as this is how I learned to make it from my mother. My Oma, however, cut hers straight off a board into the pot.
There are many variations for recipes, often depending on recipes handed down from generation-to-generation, personal preference, and regional differences. You may make them with just flour and eggs. You may make them with flour, eggs, and milk. You may add nutmeg. You can make a spinach dough. You may use lots of eggs or not so many eggs. You may add grated Parmesan cheese to the dough. Honestly, you can do whatever you want with them. Depending on what ingredients I have on hand, I either make them with just flour and eggs and a little salt, or I will add milk. I never measure anything, as I make it by sight and feel. Also remember to salt your water in your big pot, deep pots are great, and wider ones are better. You can mix your noodle dough by hand or with a heavy-duty mixer. I use my Kitchen Aid. Remember, it’s your kitchen, and you are the rock star of your kitchen. Have fun with it.
Today we will just talk about a very basic recipe, in the future we can move on to variations.
8 eggs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, about 3 1/2 – 4 Cups flour
When you mix your noodle dough, you’re going to want it smooth and somewhat elastic. I stop mixing when I start seeing blisters. I get a big pot of salted water (about a teaspoon in the pot) boiling, I fill my press about 2/3 of the way full, and squeeze it (press it) into the boiling water. It will resume boiling fairly quickly, and it takes about five minutes for them to fully cook and they will float to the top when they are done. I remove them with a skimmer (strainer ladle) into a colander placed over a bowl to drain.
Some folks will put the entire amount of dough in at one time, some folks will do them a batch at a time. I generally do them a batch at a time (one spaetzle press squeeze at a time), I’ve never had much luck doing it all at once myself, I end up with lumps and bumps instead of noodles. Do what works best for you!
I took some photos last time I made spaetzle, to show the general process.
Spaetzle can be served plain, or toss them with butter and breadcrumbs if you want. Serve them with gravy. My mom used to make gravy from the roast drippings, sour cream, and black pepper. Mmmmmm! They make a nice side to roasts or schnitzels, sausages (wursts) or roast chicken. Plain with soft fried eggs on top. Added to soups. All kinds of noodle dishes and casseroles can use spaetzle. There is so much you can do with them, and they are so easy and inexpensive to make. You can also make batches up ahead of time and keep them in the refrigerator for a few days (this works well when you are planning for a big dinner and you don’t want to fuss with noodles during the final prep of your meal), or even freeze them for longer storage (I would not keep them frozen past 2-3 months though and that is just a personal preference).
Delicious, easy, and inexpensive. You just can’t beat that. My mother made this often for Sunday dinners and holiday meals, and I do too. I confess to also making it for supper through the week sometimes, because my husband loves it, too. It keeps me connected to my mother’s memory and her heritage too.