After a long day of rock climbing in the Shawangunk mountains of Ulster County, New York, we found a traditional German restaurant, where we cozied up with some beer and a hearty bowl of spaetzle and meatballs. The name spaetzle – pronounced SCHPEHTZ-luh – means “little sparrow” in the Swabian dialect of southeast Germany. What do sparrows have to do with spaetzle? The etymology is unclear, but with a little imagination, you can see how the short, irregularly shaped egg noodles resemble tiny birds.
Spaetzle is one the most beloved and time-honored dishes of eastern and central Europe, dating back to at least 1725. Spaetzle is such an important part of the region’s cultural identity that songs and poems have been composed in its honor. You can even visit the Spaetzle Museum in Upper Swabia, Germany.
Spaetzle is particularly fun and easy to make at home. You don’t need a pasta roller or other special equipment, just a mixing bowl and colander. Spaetzle is delicious served plain with butter or cheese, or as a side dish for traditional fare like goulash, bratwurst, or königsberger (meatballs). My take on this classic incorporates seasonal vegetables from our home garden. Prepare the meatballs and spaetzle batter first. Bring the vegetables to a simmer in the stock, then start roasting the meatballs in the oven. Press the spaetzle batter through a colander into the boiling water. While the spaetzle cooks, prepare the roux for the gravy.
1 ½ cup sifted Redeemer flour
½ cup milk
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon nutmeg
Note: This is a much wetter dough than is typically used for pasta, halfway between a batter and dough. No kneading is required.
- Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a bowl. Bring a pot of water to a boil.
- Scoop the dough onto the side wall of the colander, where the holes are typically larger.
- Using the back of a wooden spoon or a firm spatula, press the dough through the colander holes into the boiling water. Work the batter back and forth across the sidewall until it’s all pressed through.
- Allow spaetzle to boil for 5-8 minutes. Turn off the heat, but don’t strain out the noodles until you’re ready to serve so they stay warm.
Vegetables and Gravy
4 small carrots chopped into two-inch sticks
1 cup pearl onions, or 1 cup of regular onions, quartered or halved.
1 pint of shishito peppers or other mild peppers
1 pint crimini or other mushrooms
4-6 crushed garlic cloves
4 cups beef or chicken stock
3 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
Note: adjust cooking times based on the size of vegetables and how firm or soft you like them.
- Bring 4 cups of stock to a simmer.
- Add the onions and garlic , then the carrots, as these take longer to cook.
- After 3-4 minutes, add mushrooms, peppers and parsley
- While the vegetables are cooking, make your roux by thoroughly combining flour and butter in a pan over medium heat.
- Once vegetables are cooked, strain the stock and gradually add to the roux until desired consistency is achieved. You may need to add extra water if there’s not enough stock remaining.
½ pounds ground pork
½ pound ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup minced onion
3 cloves minced garlic
½ cup bread crumbs
¼ cup minced parsley
1 ½ tablespoons of butter for sauteing the onions
- Saute onions and garlic in butter until softened and just beginning to brown.
- Combine all other ingredients in a bowl.
- Once the onions and garlic are done sauteeing, mix all the ingredients together and shape it into 1-2 inch balls.
- Roast in the oven at 350° for about 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 140°.