Spätzle literally means “little sparrows” in Swabian dialect. Swabia, of course, is a region of Germany that is often credited with inventing these little pasta shapes – but it seems that there is some debate as to the true origin. Not that any of this really matters for the sake of the recipe.
If you've never encountered Spätzle and wonder what they are, you'll hopefully be delighted to find out that they are basically pasta – made of very few ingredients, namely, flour, salt, eggs, and water. Nothing else.
If you have encountered pre-packaged Spätzle in your local grocery store, you will quickly find out that homemade Spätzle have nothing in common with those commercial products. Homemade Spätzle look different, they taste different, and they have a different texture. They are also infinitely better in every single respect, bar convenience.
Spätzle are easy to make but only if you have a designated “Spätzlehobel” - sort of a coarse grater – that will make it extremely easy to create the pasta shapes typical for Spätzle. I have one and use it often. After all, Spätzle are easy to make, require very frew ingredients, and offer infinite versatility through the additon of various sauces or additional ingredients.
If you don't own a Spätzlehobel but are willing to invest just a little money, you can easily purchase one on Amazon or from just about every dedicated retailer of kitchen supplies. Type “spaetzle maker” into the search window and you can usually find these gadgets for US$ 7 and up. No biggie – but certainly a nice kitchen tool to have.
Now, Spätzle by themselves aren't all that interesting. After all, flour, eggs, water, and salt result in just about the same culinary excitement as any pasta. For the real treat, you need to add a sauce. In my house, that sauce tends to be mushroom and cream-based. Unfortunately, my daughter does not eat mushrooms (even though the mushrooms look decidedly beige in this sauce) and thus, I simply remove them with a strainer before serving this dish to her.
She still gets the benefits of a freshly-made dish with all the yummy ingredients that make this delicious.
Without further ado, let's go to the recipe:
2 cups all-purpose flour
Dash of salt
1 cup of water
1 Tbs of butter (to be used once the Spätzle are cooked)
Add all ingredients to a stand mixer (such as a KitchenAid) and mix ingredients until a smooth batter results. Let sit undisturbed for 30 minutes.
While the batter is resting, get started on the mushroom-cream sauce:
4 to 5 oz mushrooms (portabella, mini bella, or even white button)
1 Tbs oil
1 cup veggie stock
¼ cup white wine
2 Tbs tomato paste
2 Tbs chopped parsley
4 leaves of fresh tarragon
½ cup of cream
1 Tbs butter
1 Tbs all-purpose flour
I know, the list of ingredients seems rather long for a simple sauce – but it's worth it and the sauce is, in spite of all those ingredients, very simple and quick to make.
Clean the mushrooms as slice thinly.
Peel the shallots and chop finely.
Heat the oil in a large pan, add the mushrooms and shallots. Saute over medium heat for about 8 minutes.
Add the veggie stock and bring to a boil.
Season with white pepper to taste.
Let simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
Add white wine and tomato paste.
Stir until well integrated, still over low heat.
Add the cream, keep stirring until all the ingredients are blended together.
Add the chopped parsley and the tarragon. (Note that fresh tarragon has a very strong flavor – go easy on this ingredient so that you don't overpower the other flavors).
In a small pan, melt the butter (alternatively, put the butter into a small bowl and microwave for a few seconds until the butter has liquified.
Add the flour to the melted butter and stir until you have a paste.
Add the butter/flour paste to your sauce and keep stirring the sauce. This will thicken the sauce.
If you find that the sauce is getting too thick, feel free to add more cream.
Add salt and a dash of sugar to taste.
Turn off heat and keep warm until your Spätzle are done:
Cooking the Spätzle:
Heat a large (and I mean it) pot with salted water to a boil.
Place your spätzle maker on top of the pot, add some of the batter to the receptacle of the spätzle maker, and start sliding the receptacle back and forth. You'll find small pasta spätzle fall into the water below. Don't worry if they keep falling on top of each other – they will not stick to each other.
When all the batter has been used up, stir the Spätzle a few times and let boil over low for about three minutes. The Spätzle don't take very long to cook.
Drain the Spätzle in a colander, put them back into the pot, and add the Tablespoon of butter, stir.
The butter will prevent the Spätzle from sticking together.
Serve with the mushroom cream sauce.
If your kid does not like mushrooms (or parsley, tarragon, shallots, etc.), put some of the sauce into a tiny strainer and remove all solids so that only the liquid is added to the Spätzle.
Any left-over Spätzle will keep well in the refrigerator for several days and can be used to make Butter-fried Onion-Cheese-Spätzle (recipe will follow at a later point)!