Let’s talk Spätzle, shall we? First of all, let’s talk about the correct pronunciation. It pains our Germanic-ally attuned ears to hear this word being butchered. Repeat after me: SCHPEHTZ-luh. So if you find yourself in Germany or Austria, you will now be able to say it with conviction! However, if you’re State-side and at a German restaurant or club, the server may not have a clue what you’re talking about, and you’ll have to resort to saying SPATzel. It’s like that time I tried to order fresh mozzarella over the phone, here in New Jersey, and I had to repeat myself three times before the guy on the other end said, “Ohhhh! Muzzadel!”
Anyhow, making Spätzle from scratch gives you the same satisfaction and stellar results as making pasta or bread does. I haven’t found a packaged version that did the dish justice, so I pick a day to take over the kitchen (who am I kidding, I always take over the kitchen), and make a double or triple batch of Spätzle to freeze and give away to friends. I end up with trays of Spätzle cooling on kitchen towels, strewn across every possible surface. I love how everyone passes through the kitchen picking at, and “testing”, the fresh product. We’ll have it for dinner with cheese or grilled Bratwursts, a fresh cucumber salad and a couple of beers. Our very own Biergarten!
You don’t need a Spätzle press for this, you can use a colander with great results. The real pros use a wooden cutting board and knife to scrape the noodles into the boiling water, but I’ve never managed to do this successfully. There’s a very simple secret ingredient in this version, which is an adaptation of the version in Bavarian Cooking by Olli Leeb. The sparkling water ensures these are fluffy and light, so that you can add cheese at your leisure!
Ingredients (Serves 4)
1 lb. (3-2/3 cups or 450g) flour
1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk
1 cup (240ml) seltzer water (aka. sparkling water), plus more as needed
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
butter to serve
Sift the flour into a large bowl, add the milk and seltzer, combine with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs and salt, beat the batter (still using the wooden spoon) until small air bubbles form, for a few minutes. Allow the dough to rest for half an hour.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Prepare your cooling area: Lay out 2-3 baking trays or platters and cover them with kitchen towels (fabric not paper), and have a large bowl of ice water at the ready next to the boiling station. You will also need a colander (not a sieve!) and a slotted spoon.
Hold the colander over the boiling pot with one hand, and with the other, ladle batter into the colander. This is where you’ll know if the batter is too thick. It should be able to hold for a few seconds before dripping through slowly, creating little dumplings. If it’s too thick, add more water a tablespoon at a time. You can push it through with a spatula. The first batch may be trial and error, but still delicious!
When the Spätzle are cooked, they will float, this only takes a minute or two. Remove them from the pot with a slotted spoon, and place them in the iced water, then remove them from the iced water and transfer to the prepared baking trays in one layer to cool.
To serve, melt 1/4 cup of butter in a large frying pan over medium heat, and sauté the Spätzle in the melted butter until warmed through.
To freeze, allow the Spätzle to cool completely, freeze in one layer on a baking tray, then transfer to zip lock bags. Freeze for up to 3 months. These can be reheated from frozen.