Spaetzle literally means ‘little sparrows’. These small egg dumplings are s staple in southern Germany and the surrounding countries. I have a little story to go with these little dumplings. When my husband (then boyfriend) and I started dating, I thought I would impress him with my culinary prowess and make one of his favorite childhood dishes from Germany. Yeah… I left an impression alright. I don’t ever recall having spaetzle prior to our relationship, let alone making it; so I really didn’t have any idea what it was supposed to look like or how it was supposed to taste.
When I read the directions for making the dough, it said nothing about consistency. I was thinking it should be like pasta dough – pliable, but not at all wet and sticky. Well let me tell you right now, it needs to be wet and sticky! I tried to push the relatively dry dough through a spaetzle maker and could barely press anything through. To be perfectly honest, the small amount I was able to press through and into the water looked like little turds. Certainly not like whimsical ‘little sparrows’.
The next time I made them, I did my homework. Once I knew what the consistency of the dough needed to be, I got to work. The dough came together well and it practically dripped into the pot of boiling water (with a little assistance from a press – exactly what you want). Immediately I knew this batch was going to work – they looked perfect! After a quick toss with brown-butter and little fresh parsley, my husband took a bite and with a genuine smile said, ‘This is exactly how they’re supposed to taste’. This time, I knew he meant it.
I have made this dish numerous times since my first attempt and they’re always a hit! That being said, I always used a spaetzle maker. A spaetzle maker looks a bit like flat, large-holed cheese grater with a sliding box on top. As you slide the box, the dough drips into a pot of boiling water. As a single purpose kitchen item, I wanted to make an alternative suggestion for those that don’t want or need yet another specialized kitchen gadget. I read on a number of forums that a colander could be used. It made sense to me, it had a firm surface with holes that could be set over a pot of boiling water. Well… as it turns out, that doesn’t work so well. The holes just aren’t big enough for the dough to easily drip through.
It was back to the drawing board; this time in terms of kitchen gadgets. I did some more research and here are the alternative suggestions I found and my thoughts:
- Pushed through a colander – seems like it would work, but in reality the holes are just too small to press the dough through. You probably could if you really wanted to put some elbow grease into it, but you’re going to be at it all day.
- another one that seems like it could work. When put to the test, the dough clumped together – even when trying smaller batches and using a knife to cut them as they dripped into the pot of boiling water. Pressed through a potato ricer –
- Pressed through a large-holed cheese grater – yet another one that seems like it would work. Except with most flat cheese graters, half of the grater is small-holed, leaving you with just a few inches of space to work the dough through the holes. Just a headache.
- Formed by hand – that just sounds like the making of a mental breakdown, not even gonna go there.
- Perforated hotel pan – why ruin a perfectly good pan when you can buy a spaetzle maker for cheap?
- Dripped from a cutting board and cut with a knife – this is another one that would test my patience, not going to do that to myself.
Mind you, all of these suggestions were made by people claiming that their oma (German word for grandma) made them this way. Now I am certainly no oma and I would place them up there with your Italian grandmother when it comes to making pasta sauce – they just have magical abilities when it comes to their food. So I’m not saying anyone is a liar, far from it. I’m just saying that perhaps these methods aren’t the best for someone new to spaetzle making.
Conclusion: Buy a spaetzle maker! I know it’s a single purpose kitchen tool, but it’s cheap (mine was $10), and it doesn’t take up much room. If you want to make spaetzle, a spaetzle maker is worth your sanity.
- 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper
- 2 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- ¾ cup water
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- pinch nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
- Sift the flour, salt, and pepper into a large bowl. In a bowl, whisk the eggs, yolk, and water together. Make a well in the center and add egg mixture. Mix well - the dough will be wet and sticky. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and prepare a medium bowl of ice water and set aside.
- Using a spaetzle maker, pour the dough into the sliding box above the grater. Begin sliding the box back and forth as the spaetzle drop into the water.
- Cook for 1 minute. Using a mesh strainer or slotted spoon, remove the spaetzle and plunge them into the bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain the spaetzle.
- In a large pan, melt the butter over medium heat until lightly brown and it takes on a nutty smell. Add the spaetzle and toss to coat each piece. Add the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat, add the parsley, and toss. Serve and Enjoy!
Thanks For Sharing this amazing recipe. My family loved it. I will be sharing this recipe with my friends. Hope the will like it.
Shay Prater says
Hi! I grew up with my great grandmother’s wonderful German cooking and the one dish I loved the most were her dumplings. I can NOT find a recipe yet that tastes like hers. They weren’t fluffy, bready ones, they were almost rubbery. They looked like bigger versions of this Spaetzel. The best consistency! My question is do you think I could use this recipe to do drop dumplings instead of pushing them through a grater? She used to dip a spoon in the boiling water and then scoop a little and drop them in. The consistency of the end product was just so perfect. I’m going to try this recipe tonight to serve with my chicken soup, which is in my crock pot at this moment teasing me with yummy goodness!
Thanks for any feedback!!
Hi Shay! Thanks for stopping by! That’s so awesome that you grew up with a great grandmother who made real-deal German food! I haven’t made this recipe using the method you noted, but I’m fairly certain the spoon method to make larger dumplings would work just fine! You may need to cook them just a touch longer to make sure they’re cooked through – so I would recommend having the bowl of ice water nearby to plunge one in to test doneness before you strain all of them. Let me know how it turns out!
By the way, I have scheduled on my calendar, a fantastic Chicken and Dumplings recipe in the next few weeks! Please check back and see if that piques you interest as well! 🙂
Katie (The Muffin Myth) says
You know, I have almost the opposite story but with gnocchi. I made it the night before and piled it up in a pyramid on a plate not knowing they should be in a single layer, and everything stuck together in one giant glob of potato pasta. When I pulled little bits apart and cooked it it turned into the most horrible goopy mess, and because I was young and foolish I just mixed it with the sauce and served it anyways – a mistake I’ve never repeated! I used to have one of those spaetzle presses but it didn’t survive my move overseas, and I haven’t made spaetzle in ages, but now I want to! Have you ever tried doing it by pushing the batter though the holes of a box grater? Thanks for the recipe and the inspiration!
That’s hilarious! Your story reminds me of the first time I made pumpkin ravioli – a complete disaster! But like you, I certainly learned from my mistake(s).
If you don’t have a spaetzle maker, I know you can use a colander or flat cheese grater. My only concern about using a box grater, is that the spaetzle are so sticky, that if they are falling down on top of each other due to the angle and compartmentalization of a box grater, that you may have the same issue as you did with the gnocchi. In other words, I’m afraid they may all clump together. To be on the safe side, I would suggest using a colander or purchasing a cheap, flat cheese grater with large holes.
I hope you enjoy! 🙂