Seems you can’t swing a dead cat in Seattle without hitting a restaurant serving spaetzle. This has been a developing trend over the last few years—and I’m all for it. Whether you call it pasta, dumplings, spaetzle, or any number of other names from around the globe, the combination of flour with water, egg, or milk is pure comfort. As a delivery vehicle for other good flavors—wild mushrooms, herbs, or even weeds—rustic pastas like spaetzle are unparalleled.
I’m a fanatic for homemade Italian pastas, though sometimes you don’t have the time or energy to devote to a well-executed ravioli, or even tagliolini. In our family we’ve been making a simple dish we call Polish Dumplings for years to satisfy the flour-and-egg yen. It’s quick, easy, and delicious in a hearty chicken or vegetable soup. This same recipe can be repurposed without any extra effort to make something just that much more delicate and special. Spaetzle (also spelled spätzle) is really just a pile of tiny dumplings. There’s something about the mouth feel that’s addictive. Whereas dumplings are chunky and filling, spaetzle is light and tender.
Just about any occasion can call for spaetzle, even an afternoon of weeding in the yard. I pulled a couple of my favorites for the table: bittercress and dandelion greens. Back in the disaster zone that is our kitchen, I couldn’t find our cheap spaetzle maker so I resorted to a colander, and while you’ll see many recipes that suggest this method as an alternative, it’s really not the way you want to go. Buy an inexpensive spaetzle maker; you’ll make more spaetzle.
I used half the dough to make spaetzle and the rest for basic dumplings.
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup finely chopped weeds or herbs
1. Put a pot of water on the boil. Whisk together eggs and milk in a small bowl.
2. Measure flour and salt into a large bowl, then add egg-milk mixture and chopped weeds and stir together with a fork until ingredients are mixed but not overly so. The dough should be sticky.
3. Salt boiling water generously. Press dough through spaetzle maker (or a colander, if you must) directly into boiling water.
For larger dumplings like these steaming on a plate (above), just pull gobs of dough off a fork and allow to fall directly into the pot. Both spaetzle and dumplings are ready when floating on the surface. It doesn’t take long.
For my daughter’s portion, I melted a pat of butter on top and grated some fresh parmesan cheese. Ruby liked it just like that, but you could serve it as a side dish or top with a meat or wild mushroom ragu. Spaetzle is a self-starter and plays well with others.