The Swiss version of homemade pasta is spaetzle (pronounced SHPATES-luh or in Swiss German SHPATES-Li) – these are little dumpling-like noodles that are a delicious departure from the usual potato, pasta, or rice side dish. Spaetzle are so versatile pairing easily with just about anything and there are a few different ways to present them. One way is to serve them after being boiled in water – much the same way that pasta is prepared. Another method involves sauteeing them in a pan with either a little bit of butter or olive oil (or combination of both) after they've been boiled in the water. This extra step adds another dimension to the texture of these little dumplings – in addition to being soft and slightly chewy they have a nice caramelized crust that is delicious. In Switzerland spaetzle are often served with caramelized onions on top but there is really no limit to the possibilities for how to serve them. Another idea is to add fresh herbs to the batter to create herbed spaetzle which I've yet to try but that will be my next experiment!
My usual M.O. in the kitchen is to prepare things that are simple and straight forward. While I love to spend hours experimenting in the kitchen I reserve that activity for a weekend afternoon not an evening during the week when I'm tired and hungry. This recipe is one of those weekend afternoon activities. While it's simple in theory it proved to be a little more demanding in execution. The batter is a breeze to pull together but where I ran into a little more difficulty was in the making of the actual spaetzle. The idea is to run the batter through a colander with wide holes – there are actually special colanders that are designed precisely for the making of spaetzle and all you have to do is run the batter through the colander so that the batter drips into a pot of boiling hot water and voila, spaetzle. Well, I didn't have one of those aforementioned colanders so I employed another method that my Grandmother used to use whereby you "simply" tilt your bowl of batter over the side of your pot of boiling water and using a knife slice off strips of batter so that they drip into the hot water to form the dumplings. You can dip your knife into the boiling water occasionally to clean it. I found this to be easier said than done but the delicious finished product was reward enough to make me want to try these again soon!
- 2 1/2 C flour
- 1/4 Teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 Cup water
- 1 Onion, sliced thinly
- Butter or olive oil for sauteeing the onions and then the spaetzle if desired
1) Sift the flour and salt and set aside in a bowl. Mix the eggs with the water and beat together. Make a well in the middle of the sifted flour and add the egg – stir together gradually mixing together until it forms a smooth batter. Let it stand for 30 minutes.
2) Slice the onions into thin half-moon pieces. Heat a pan over medium and add either a pat of butter or a tablespoon or so of olive oil just enough so that the onions won't stick to the pan. Add the onions and allow them to sautee over medium to low heat until they are caramelized and look golden brown. This will take awhile – be sure to keep an eye on them and lower the temperature as needed – you want them to cook slowly so that the onion turns sweet and if the temperature is too hot they will burn before they have a chance to caramelize.
3) Boil water in a large pot – when water is boiling season it with salt. Then take the bowl of batter and tilt it over the pot of boiling water – using a knife only allow strips of the batter to drip into the water. You can do this by cutting the batter as it drips into the water or taking strips of the dough dipping the knife into the water to release it from the knife. Allow the spaetzle to cook for about 5-7 minutes once they float to the surface. You'll want to do a few batches so that you don't crowd the pot and to account for more even cooking time. When they are done cooking using a slotted spoon drain and then set aside on a plate or covered casserole dish to keep warm.
Note: Don't be afraid to sacrifice a few spaetzle initially to practice this method – it takes a few trial runs to get the technique down.
4) Season with salt to taste and serve with the sauteed onions.