DO YOU NEED A SPATZLEHOBEL?
Spatzle is a traditional European side dish of small noodles or dumplings made with flour, eggs, water and salt. The water is sometimes replaced, at least in part, by milk, carbonated water (which gives the dough a softer texture) or, in Bavaria, even beer. Other ingredients like cheese, fruits, onions or nutmeg can be added to create sweet or savory dishes. Spatzle is typically served with butter, gravy or other sauces or fried in butter to add a delicious golden crust.
Most often associated with Germany, particularly the Swabian region in the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg, spatzle also is popular in Switzerland (where it may be called knopfli, or “little buttons”), Hungary (where it is nokedli, csipetke or galuska), and in the Alsace and Moselle regions of France. It is similar to Italian gnocchi but smaller and without the potato. There are at least two theories for how spatzle was named; the first proposes that the word comes from the German spatzen, which means “little sparrows,” and the second suggests it derives from the Italian spezzato, which means “small pieces.”
Spatzle dough is more moist than Italian pasta dough, and as a result it can’t be rolled out. Several ways have been devised to form the pasta:
- The dough can be spread over a wet, wooden cutting board (a spatzlebrett), cut into strips with a sharp knife and then scraped into boiling water.
- Or, the dough can be pressed with a rubber spatula through the holes of a colander, grater or even a slotted spoon or ladle directly into a pot of simmering water. Remember that the holes must be about ¼ inch across.
- The easiest method by far is to purchase a spatzelhobel, or spatzle press, like the one pictured above. This inexpensive contraption drapes directly across the top of your pot of simmering water. The hopper is filled halfway up with batter and, as you move it back and forth across the grate, the dough falls through the holes into the salted water, where it boils for a few minutes before rising to the top, indicating that it’s done. You have only to remove it with a slotted spoon, drain it and continue to the next batch (spatzle should be made in batches to avoid overcrowding, which could reduce the water temperature and cause the noodles to stick together).