Last week, we discovered the pleasures of a German rendition of fresh, home-made pasta called Spätzle. As with all pasta, the addition of a sauce transforms the somewhat bland pasta into a flavor explosion that, due to the large variety of possible sauces, is bound to please any palate – even that of very picky eaters who prefer mostly beige food!
In my house, the quantity that result from the Spätzle recipe invariably leads to a lot of left-overs. Now, one could be led to argue that, just perhaps, it would behoove me to simply cut down the recipe to produce fewer servings. I will not, though – not because I like to be wasteful, but because the left-over Spätzle make the perfect base ingredient for another well-loved dish in our household:
Käsespätzle are the same little home-made pasta shapes we made last week that are, then, fried in butter and, ultimately, combined with caramelized onions and cheese. The result is simultaneously creamy and crispy, savory and somewhat sweet. In short, it is absolutely delicious!
Before we get to the Käsespätzle, let's quickly rehash the original Spätzle 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.
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.
Now, for the Käsespätzle:
5 Tbs Butter
2 – 3 Cups Left-over Spätzle
3 medium Onions, thinly sliced
1 Cup Gruyere, grated.
In a large sauce pan, melt the butter on medium.
Once the butter has melted, reduce heat to low and add sliced onions.
Slowly fry onions in the melted butter, stirring occasionally, until golden. Caramelizing onions in this very slow and deliberate fashion brings out quite a bit of sweetness. If your heat is too high, your butter will burn first and your onions will burn next. You do NOT want a burnt taste in your Käsespätzle. Caramelizing onions can take up to 30 minutes!
Once the onions are golden, push them to one side of the pan and add the left-over Spätzle. Raise heat to high and stir occasionally, mixing the onions with the Spätzle while also breaking up larger clumps that probably formed while you had the Spätzle in a container.
Fry the mixture until some of the Spätzle also attain a nice golden color.
Reduce heat to low and add the grated cheese. Stir until the cheese has completely melted and is integrated into the Spätzle and Onion mixture.
Turn off heat, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.