Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Spaetzle #1 - "Pasta" Made Easy

Little sparrow. At least that's the literal translation. Of spaetzle, that is. Or spätzle. It's a love of Significant Eater's, who often orders it when we're at our favorite neighborhood eatery, Cafe Katja. There, they do a classic version with emmenthaler and fried onions (Käsespätzle) as well as a version of buckwheat spaetzle; the spaetzle sauteed with a bunch of seasonal vegetables. When Bon Apetit wrote about Cafe Katja, the recipe they were kind enough to divulge was for their pumpkin seed spaetzle, another dish I've been lucky enough to try.

So what about making these tiny dumplings at home? Sounds like it might be difficult, right? If you've ever wanted to make pasta at home, you should think about giving these a try, though my first attempt was a real mess; the dough is very sticky which led to a fair amount of cursing and cleanup. But it tasted good. To lessen the mess, I figured I needed a spaetzle maker to make my life easier, so a spaetzle maker I bought. At Sur La Table, this gizmo was a mere $15...the price of a good cocktail.

For my first spaetzle making attempts, I used a recipe from the
Time Life Foods of the World series, specifically that of Germany. That recipe is almost exactly the same as one that appears in The Dumpling Cookbook, by Maria Polushkin, which also happens to be on my bookshelf. At least the proportions of liquid to flour are the same, though Maria's recipe calls for water instead of milk. In any case, I made 1/2 a batch (only me for dinner), using milk on the verge of going down the drain, along with some chopped chives. The batter/dough is definitely thick and sticky in this version...

Then, I sprayed my new spaetzle maker with cooking spray and loaded it up...

Here is the first batch simmering away. It needs to be simmered, not boiled, or the dumplings may fall apart...

After about 2.5 minutes, I shocked and drained the spaetzle, then tossed them with a little olive oil to keep 'em from sticking to each other...

A close-up of the spaetzle...

Finally, for serving, I sautéed them in some duck fat, since I happened to have some duck fat in my fridge. Butter or olive oil would be fine too...

The verdict? Almost (but not quite) as good as Cafe Katja's - where they use water in the dough, according to Andrew, one of the owners. And I'm going to keep playing with spaetzle recipes, at least until I find the formula I like best.

Chive Spaetzle
- (Adapted From Time Life Recipes: The Cooking of Germany)

3 c A/P flour

1 c milk
4 eggs
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 T snipped chives

Combine ingredients. Stir till sticky dough forms. Stir more...work it. Cover and let sit at least 15 minutes before cooking. Bring 2 qts. water to a boil. Using spaetzle maker (or some other more annoying device) force dough through holes into boiling water. When water starts to simmer, cook a batch of dumplings (don't do it all at once, perhaps about 1/3 of the dough) for about 3 minutes (taste and make sure they're done). Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. Toss with a little olive oil and continue with however you want to use these things.


  1. There's such a thing as a spaetzle maker? Who knew? I tried to make this once and the directions I had were to push the dough through a colindar and this didn't work and it was such a mess I am afraid to try again...hmmm, maybe I won't. Impressed with you Mitch...always...more now that I know you keep duck fat in your freezer. :-)

  2. @ Elizabeth - My first attempt was with a potato ricer that has removable disks. I thought about the colander and decided it would just aggravate me.

    Oh, and duck fat? Always have some available.