His Noodly Appendage
November 10, 2015 11:10 AM   Subscribe

"Spätzle are a kind of soft egg noodle found in the cuisines of southern Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Alsace and South Tyrol. Traditionally, Spätzle are made by scraping long, thin strips of dough off a wooden (sometimes wet) chopping board (Spätzlebrett) into boiling salted water where they cook until they rise to the surface... Spätzle typically accompany meat dishes prepared with an abundant sauce or gravy, such as Zwiebelrostbraten, Sauerbraten or Rouladen. In Hungary spätzle often are used in soup..." posted by growabrain (70 comments total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
Traditionally, Spätzle are made by scraping long, thin strips of dough off a wooden (sometimes wet) chopping board (Spätzlebrett) into boiling salted water where they cook until they rise to the surface

That's incredible. I'd only ever seen the dedicated grater and press-style Spätzle makers. Not being too keen on unitaskers, I've always pressed mine through a colander, which works okay for smaller batches. I'll have to try the cutting board approach the next time.
posted by jedicus at 11:16 AM on November 10, 2015 [6 favorites]

Pushing the dough through a potato ricer works nicely, too, although slicing them off the cutting board is what I grew up with... I love spätzle (bár inkább galuskának hívom).
posted by Wolfdog at 11:18 AM on November 10, 2015

My Bavarian girlfriend back in the 90s used a spaetze hobel. You can even get those at Walmart now.
posted by w0mbat at 11:23 AM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Rouladen is the go-to holiday dish in my wife's family... but then she became a vegetarian. Now I have much less reason to make spaetzle. But maybe I need to think of something else to make instead to go with these awesome soft not-quite-noodles. Serving red cabbage (stewed with an apple or two) on the side is also a requirement.
posted by GuyZero at 11:24 AM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Tired of slicing the noodles by hand? There's a robot for that.
posted by idiopath at 11:24 AM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

That video takes me right back to being in my Oma's kitchen as a child. All you need to add is the aroma of cabbage, and the feeling of being full. Very, very full.
posted by sobarel at 11:28 AM on November 10, 2015 [4 favorites]

There's a robot for that.

Those robots would just mangle spaetzle dough - it's an extremely wet sticky dough, not at all like the well-floured noodle doughs.
posted by zug at 11:29 AM on November 10, 2015

Our current plan for next summer is a week in southern Germany then a week in south Tirol so I can see me getting a fair amount of these things inside me, good work growabrain.
posted by biffa at 11:29 AM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

Since the Mrs. mostly keeps to vegetarian diet (but not super strictly), her meal when we go out for German is spatzle and a side of gravy.
posted by hwyengr at 11:30 AM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

No reason for a vegetarian to make spätzle? Counterpoint: Käsespätzle. Basically, make a bunch of spätzle. Put a layer in a casserole dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and lots of cheese - Emmentaler and gruyere are good choices. (Um Gottes Willen, don't use cheddar - it'll just taste weird like mac & cheese.) Repeat, layering spätzle with cheesy goodness. Bake until gooey, with some bubbly crunch on the top. Top with onions, sliced into half-rings and pan-fried until crispy. Eat. Nap. It's a carb-cheese bomb of happiness.

I've never seen anyone do the cutting-board technique in real life. Seems like every Bavarian I know will dreamily tell you about watching their grandma do that, then guiltily confess that they don't know how to do it and they use the grater-ish Spätzlehobel just like everyone else under age 60.
posted by mandanza at 11:35 AM on November 10, 2015 [13 favorites]

We've always used the wet-board method in my family (dip it into the pot of boiling water rather than run it under the faucet!); the only problem with it is, it's slower than using any sort of spatzle machine. Also, you get my grandmother standing behind you telling you "thinner! thinner!" Because apparently it's well known that "boys will never marry a girl who makes fat spatzle."
posted by easily confused at 11:38 AM on November 10, 2015 [16 favorites]

Growing up, my mom made spatzle from the Joy of Cooking with beef stew from Fannie Farmer and it's still one of my favorite combos of any food ever. She makes it for me every time I go home. She used the colander method until she found a spatzle maker in the hardware store, which was a thrilling and strange find in our small town.
posted by Mavri at 11:46 AM on November 10, 2015

I like to use spatzle in making a hearty chicken papriskh and then not moving for the next 48 hours.
posted by The Whelk at 11:50 AM on November 10, 2015 [10 favorites]

This is fascinating to watch... I've heard of this way of making spatzle, but never seen it before. I think I'll have to stick to using my spatzle press which a wonderful roomate from Austria left behind over 20 years ago. Before that, I always used a ricer, as my mom wasn't going to part with her spatzle press and they were impossible to find in Canada in pre-internet days.

This reminds me that we haven't had spatzle for a while. Time to make some!
posted by fimbulvetr at 11:51 AM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Thanks for this!

I've wanted to try making spatzle for some time (had it in a restaurant recently which rekindled the "thing I should try at home" notion), but thought I'd need a single-use thingy for it (my kitchen space is at a premium, so I'm anti-single-use kitchen stuff wherever practically possible).

Had no idea about the cutting board technique. I may give this a whirl now that we're into weather that makes hanging out over pots of hot water seem appealing.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:53 AM on November 10, 2015

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt of Serious Eats just yesterday posted a recipe for Chicken Paprikash and at the end of it he hints that he has a spätzle recipe already in the works.
posted by dnash at 11:54 AM on November 10, 2015 [6 favorites]

The Whelk, when you've recovered, could you come make some of that for me? kthx.
posted by maryr at 11:55 AM on November 10, 2015

(RE: above recipe, bah, the correct ratio of paprika to put in the dish is 3 parts sweet, 2 parts smoked, 1 part hot)
posted by The Whelk at 12:00 PM on November 10, 2015

Galuska / nokedli, tomato / tom... Er, aubergine / eggplant.
posted by tigrrrlily at 12:11 PM on November 10, 2015

When I was three we had baby sitters in Zepplinheim, Herr and Frau Großjohan. She made spätzle with butter and nutmeg. I made something similar just the other day. She also made a dish with brussels sprouts and scrambled eggs, nutmeg in that too. I was just going over spätzle recipes last week.

Metafilter: Reading my mind again.
posted by Oyéah at 12:14 PM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

oh! My other favorite spatzle use, coated in butter and poppy seeds, served along side schnitzel and lemon wedges.
posted by The Whelk at 12:18 PM on November 10, 2015

I just added paprikash to my meal plan for the week about 15 minutes ago, and then I see this thread. Such a weird coincidence! (Not making homemade spaetzle though, I have a knee injury so standing that much is right out. Gonna have to go with store-bought egg noodles.)
posted by misskaz at 12:19 PM on November 10, 2015

(another Paprikash tip: while shredded breast meat does dry out, cubed boneless leg meat is a good compromise if you don't want to deal with bones)
posted by The Whelk at 12:21 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Spaetzle is the pasta that my Hungarian grandmother taught me to make. (The Polish grandmother who married an Italian taught me a ton of Polish and Italian pastas).

When Grammy made speatzle, you put a thick batter on a plate and held it over a pot of boiling, salted water and pushed strips of batter off the plate with a wet butter knife.

I have a spaetzle grater. The only time it has bee used was when a neighbor borrowed it for a church dinner. The spaetzle from graters and colanders are too small and noodley for me. Grammy's were always more like small dumplings.

I'll make a big pot of paprikash for everyone.
posted by Seamus at 12:21 PM on November 10, 2015

The Whelk, amen to that!
Boneless thigh meat is the bomb for weeknight paprikash.
No need for a long slow cook when you use that.
posted by Seamus at 12:23 PM on November 10, 2015

Smoked paprika has no place in parikash.

Smoked paprika is used to coat a piece of fatback that you heat over a fire and drip onto some crusty bread.
posted by Seamus at 12:24 PM on November 10, 2015

I like a little bit to balance out the flavor a bit (it's easy to go too sweet or too sour creamy) but I can always be talked into coated fatback in anything.
posted by The Whelk at 12:27 PM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

They make some pretty good soy sausages these days, so you could totally make German spiced red cabbage with sausage and raisins and all for the vegetarian in your life.

The spätzle machen video ist awesome.
posted by Oyéah at 12:30 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Paprika-coated fatback - proof that it is not genetics that caused my svelte Central European figure.

The biggest difference between my grandmother's method and the one in the video is that the video is more of a dough than a batter and my family's recipe is the opposite.

(Nutmeg. Nutmeg is allowed but usually used in spaetzle for fancy meals, company or holidays. Usually it is just egg, milk, flour, salt and pepper.)
posted by Seamus at 12:31 PM on November 10, 2015

ah, growing up in canada, I missed learning stuff like this from my Oma, (I only learned how to make waffles when I was visiting) but my mom makes rouladen to absolutely die for.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:50 PM on November 10, 2015

Oyéah, I am ready and willing to be the vegetarian in your life if I get German spiced red cabbage with sausage and raisins and all!

The Spätzli here in Switzerland are much shorter and plumper than the ones shown above: here's a recipe from the Swiss milk board. At the start of the autumn my partner made us a traditional German-Swiss seasonal dinner, with spätzli, caramelised marroni (chestnuts), forest mushrooms, red cabbage, wild boar for him and our housemate, Brussels sprouts and poached pears. It was glorious.
posted by daisyk at 12:51 PM on November 10, 2015 [4 favorites]

One time, a German friend was supervising my making of spaetzle (with a colander that time), and she shrieked (in German): "They're too long!" When I asked what that mattered, she replied, "Then they'll be [regular] noodles, not spaetzle!" as if I am a complete idiot.
posted by tippiedog at 12:54 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Cauliflower and mushrooms make a great veggie paprikash.
I have made some great ones with wheat gluten too.
If anyone knows of a good vegan substitute for sour cream (that won't curdle and will remain creamy in a stew), I could even make it for my vegan friends.

(But what about eggless, milkless spaetzle?????? No ideas.)
posted by Seamus at 12:56 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

My office is about 60 seconds away from a place that does killer spätzle (Schnitzel Hub, at Yonge & St Clair). Won't ever quite make up for the loss of The Coffee Mill, though.
posted by scruss at 12:57 PM on November 10, 2015

When I was in Göttingen for an undergrad research project many years ago, the professor and his wife made a regional dinner with some of us students, including spätzle. I think we made them by hand, which worked because there were a lot of us.
posted by daisyk at 12:58 PM on November 10, 2015

Spaetzle are the fastest, easiest pasta to make and is great for large groups because if the sauce is hot, they reheat when you serve them. More people should make them.

When you use a colander, how do you not end up with the steam cooking the batter and sealing up the holes?
posted by Seamus at 1:02 PM on November 10, 2015

Spaetzle, the dish I was introduced to and have been wanting to make ever since it showed up inexplicably in my first cookbook: a 3" Betty Crocker binder with maybe 100 pages in it. Out of the, oh, 80 recipes in this book (lots of pictures), spaetzle is naturally one of the mandatory staples to be tackled.
posted by rhizome at 1:04 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you don't mind getting a little messy you can make spätzle with a plastic bag with holes poked in the bottom, kinda like an overgrown icing bag.

The spätzle plane works way better though.

And I'm personally team bone-in chicken thighs for paprikash, but I happen to love both dark meat and cheap cuts.
posted by Itaxpica at 1:35 PM on November 10, 2015

There's a tiny little Alsace restaurant in my hood. They tend to play up the French part of the equation, but always have spätzle on the menu for when folks like me show up (Baden-Württemberg descent).
posted by kjs3 at 1:42 PM on November 10, 2015

Now if we could just teach people how to pronounce it. I was at a restaurant a few months back and the waitress kept correcting my pronunciation to the incorrect "spats-lee".

Correct is [ˈʃpɛtslə] or "spaaytz-lee".

Unless you're Swiss, then only God knows what you're saying.
posted by misterpatrick at 1:43 PM on November 10, 2015

misterpatrick: "spaaytz-lee"?!? Noooooonononono. No way. Nohoho. Nopedy-no.

/ˈʃpɛtslə/ is pretty close though. If I had to write it without umlauts I'd probably go with "shpats-luh"
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 2:03 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

This is the closest I can find to the way the Hungarians in the family said it.

How would you spell that phonetically?
posted by Seamus at 2:03 PM on November 10, 2015

Who am I kidding, the only correct way to pronounce it is the way your grandmother did and I will never convince you otherwise.
posted by Seamus at 2:05 PM on November 10, 2015 [3 favorites]

re: pronunciation, it's such a wide area, there are many different forms. I don't think anything ending on -ee can be right, though. That is a typical Americanism.

I'm skeptical of spätzle, though I have to admit they taste good. First of all, I don't like any form of pasta as starch accompanying a main dish. It's too much of everything.
Second, there was this really really embarrassing thing that happened. Once during 1990 or 1991 one of my German friends visited. He was a great guy, but almost a caricature of a Bavarian. While he was here, suddenly a big-shot artist and writer arrived from a newly liberated central European country. For some reason it made sense that I should host this world famous person with an amazing personal history of resistance and beautiful work and of course invite everyone I knew.
My good friend insisted he had to help me, and that he was certain the big-shot artist would love a serving of something which had been a 100 years in a dutch oven + spätzle + kraut. I had a dreadful sense that maybe someone who had been confined behind the iron curtain since -45 might want something more exotic. But my friend was really insistent. He filled my tiny minimalist kitchen with Central European fumes and spätzle on the floor along with vegetable cuttings and gravy spots. I gave up and went out to find some alcohol. Which turned out to be smart.
Big-shot was not shy about his dislike of anything German and specifically of "German food which has been imposed on our country for centuries" (I have been to his country, and they seem to eat "German food" very happily. But he was free! that year, that time). However, the toddy I made for big-shot to cure his cold pacified him, and I got a chance to cook my own (fish)dinner for him and everyone else the next day so my reputation could be saved.
posted by mumimor at 2:13 PM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

The Swiss spelling is Spätzli (-li is the diminutive suffix, like -chen in High German). It's pronounced shpetz-lee, sort of ... the ä sits a bit further back in the mouth than a short e would. That's how I would say it in Zürich, at least. There is probably a different pronunciation in every single valley and hamlet of the country.

Incidentally, the word means 'little sparrows'. :)
posted by daisyk at 2:21 PM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

The wiki has the pronunciation I'm most used to, though again, there are probably hundreds of different ways to pronounce it, and the Austrians I know drag out the ä a lot more. I'd forgotten the Swiss love of diminutives, daisyk, but still I think the i at the end is shorter than the -ee in Seamus' link.
posted by mumimor at 2:29 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ways to pronounce this may differ somewhat, but if it's spelled Spätzle, it's pronounced /ˈʃpɛtslə/, plus or minus some tiny variations like a more open and elongated ä in Austria.

The Swiss Spätzli does end in -ee (roughly like see), but hey, it's spelled differently too. BTW Spätzle is the Swabian diminutive of Spatz, sparrow. In Bavarian they're often called "Spatzen", sparrows w/o diminutive.

Can't listen to the Hungarian right now, but if it's spelled Spätzle and pronounced like Spätzli I'll be surprised...
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 2:47 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think you can make a reasonable vegan egg sub with garbanzo bean water, and ground pecans. A scant pinch of tumeric for egg color. The water and nut pieces have to be blended to the consistency of cream. My take on using almond flour for this is that, almond is not quite as fatty as pecan nuts.
posted by Oyéah at 2:56 PM on November 10, 2015

My father's people are Swabian, so I just work with the assumption that my body is composed of roughly 50% spaetzle.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:10 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

My grandmother came over from Hungary in her teens, so I don't think her pronunciation being an Americanization is any more than likely than it being a regional variation. She was not an educated woman, so her spelling would probably not be correct either. However, she always spelled it "spaetzle". I would imagine her sense would be that spelling followed pronunciation and not the other way around.
But she was born in Hungary when it was part of Austria-Hungary, so who knows where her pronunciation came from.
posted by Seamus at 4:13 PM on November 10, 2015

God, my kingdom for some käsespätzle.

Also, I have (oddly) discovered that Isa Chandra Moskowitz's vegan Punk Rock Chickpea Gravy is a wonderful complement to a big bowl of noodly spätzle.
posted by mynameisluka at 5:28 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Käsespätzle are too heavy, and regular Spätzle are kind of bland to me? But one time I ate a dish of hazelnut-Spätzle with, I think, mushrooms and tiny slices of roasted apple and that was so good I find myself mentioning it a lot.
posted by Ashenmote at 7:47 PM on November 10, 2015 [3 favorites]

Part of my father's family is from the Allgäu in southern Bavaria, which is where I assume my Oma (originally from Saarbrücken, later lived in the Ruhrgebiet) learned how to make it. She later taught the recipe to my mother (born and raised in Bremen, so she didn't know from spätzle). We always had it käsespätzle-style, mixed with fried onions and topped with green onions or chives. Nom-nom-nom....

I've only had plain spätzle in restaurants, such as the Black Forest Restaurant in Harrison Hot Springs, and the late lamented Cafe Katzenjammer in Vancouver. As a side dish plain spätzle is pretty good, too, but without the cheese it's missing that certain... awesomeness.

I now make käsespätzle for my family. Now don't burn me as a heretic, but I also add chopped bacon to the dish, because... well, bacon.
posted by e-man at 10:50 PM on November 10, 2015

Käsespätzle are too heavy


Käsespätzle are the best.

(I grew up in Swabia so, like The Underpants Monster, I also am made up from about 50% Spätzle. The rest is mostly Butterbrezeln (buttered swabian pretzels).
posted by Hairy Lobster at 11:20 PM on November 10, 2015 [3 favorites]

My grandfather came from Hungary in his 20s to escape the Nazi invasion. Grandma learned to make spaetzle that was more than acceptable to him and he was not a man who was easily pleased, but my grandma was a brilliant cook. Her holishkes were like nothing I've ever tasted since.

What the fuck did she put in those things?
posted by Sophie1 at 7:35 AM on November 11, 2015

Hairy Lobster, how dare you claim that Butterbrezeln are "buttered Swabian (!) pretzels". I hereby declare war on you on behalf of the good and honest Bavarian people!
posted by SAnderka at 8:07 AM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:52 AM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Mwah... It's true, Swabians claiming the (butter-)pretzel does fill me with blind rage. However they are almost always called "Breze" rather than "Brezel" in Bavaria, so I'll let it go just this once... Also, Americans putting mustard rather than butter on pretzels is at least as bad.

Also, I just spent weeks and at least a dozen batches figuring out how to make real pretzels with American ingredients... I'm saying the Bavarian pretzel just conquered Texas! Let them have Swabia.
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 9:12 AM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

How well does spatzle work with Mac and Cheese? Especially the extra gooey kind? Asking for a friend, not asking because I'm still bitter about losing to homemade gnocci in last years mac and cheese competition. Nothing like that.
gnocci isn't even a type of macaroni
posted by Hactar at 10:12 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Hactar - Well, since spaetzle isn't macaroni either, it should work.
It won't hold up as well as gnocchi to additional cooking, so you'll have to make the sace and add it in just before serving. But I think it is worth a try.
Please tell us how it is. And share a recipe if it is amazing.

kleinsteradikaleminderheit - Please, please, please share the pretzel recipe.
posted by Seamus at 10:49 AM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

And by "should work" I mean "should work about as well".
posted by Seamus at 10:53 AM on November 11, 2015


"how dare you claim that Butterbrezeln are "buttered Swabian (!) pretzels""
"Swabians claiming the (butter-)pretzel does fill me with blind rage"
How dare I??? How dare YOU?!?

*takes out dueling fish*

*fish-slaps SAnderka and kleinsteradikaleminderheit*

Having grown up around Stuttgart, the capital of Swabia, and subsequently lived in Munich, the capital of Bavaria, for many years, it is fairly obvious that my extensive record of buttered pretzel consumption qualifies me as Metafilter's Own™ foremost authority on buttered pretzels.

The failure of the Bavarian pretzel (as well as of its most common American cousin) is simply a misunderstanding of the ingenious architecture and the true purpose of the pretzel. Bavarian pretzels as well as most American pretzels I have come across suffer from near uniform thickness. It is basically a mere cylinder twisted into a knot. Swabian pretzels on the other hand would, if untied, reveal themselves to be the Gaussian distribution of buttered pleasure made flesh dough.

As a result the consumption of Bavarian (and most American) pretzels delivers a sub-optimal textural experience as every part of the pretzel resembles every other part of the pretzel. An experience as rewarding as a long drive through miles and miles of agricultural dystopian wastelands filled with nothing but wheat monoculture. Swabian pretzels on the other hand provide a complex and varying textural experience. A journey, if you wish, that takes you from the lush, nutrient rich buttered valley meadows of the pretzel's thick center to the bracing fresh air of lofty, rocky mountain peaks represented by the thin, crispy ends, as you travel leisurely along the pastry's longitudinal axis.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 11:11 AM on November 11, 2015 [17 favorites]

Funny I just had some for lunch with a nice pork roast & carrots.
posted by msiebler at 11:29 AM on November 11, 2015

Having grown up around Stuttgart

My father's people came from Oberriexingen, just over the Enz.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:44 PM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Hairy Lobster: How DARE you equate the American and Bavarian Pretzel!!! The American soft pretzel is to a real pretzel roughly as wonder bread is to a Parisian baguette.

Having said that, I see your point about texture... Swabian pretzels do tend to get thinner towards the edges more than the Bavarian pretzel does. But no, a Bavarian pretzel would not unroll to a cylinder. I put it to you that he Swabian pretzel would unroll to something like --------==--------, whereas the Bavarian pretzel would unroll to the Gaussian shape you so unjustly claim for Swabia. The B-pretzel does have crunch, and more of it towards the edges, just not too much.

Also: Metafilter's Own™ foremost authority on buttered pretzels?!? Surely you jest. I challenge you to a traditional pretzel-off, sir.
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 1:39 PM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

>Please, please, please share the pretzel recipe.

Seamus - Sure, but I'll have to write it up, and this thread is about to die ... Anybody interested, send me a message?
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 1:50 PM on November 11, 2015

That video is wonderful, as is this post. Thanks.
posted by theora55 at 7:12 PM on November 11, 2015


posted by Greg Nog at 4:47 PM on November 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

How well does spatzle work with Mac and Cheese?
Spaetlzle works great as the mac part of the equation. I've had it combined with a lot of grated Emmental a bit of Limberger and some crispy fried onions. Delicious. Not your actual cheese sauce, just melted cheese.
posted by w0mbat at 5:39 PM on November 19, 2015

Yessss! Mac and Cheese made with Spaetzle is known as Kaesspaetzle in Swabia. It's the best!
posted by Hairy Lobster at 10:41 PM on November 19, 2015

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