Spaetzle is German comfort in a dish

Spaetzle is a German side dish made with flour, milk and eggs — and it’s the ultimate comfort food.

Take some carbs and toss them in fat. What’s not to like? As part of a GNTO India event held at the Hyatt Regency New Delhi, the hotel’s Executive Chef Ivan Chieregatti rustled up some spaetzle, a popular German dish from the Swabian region (currently the German state of Baden-Württemberg). In Germany, spaetzle is typically served as a side dish for meat dishes with gravy.

Spätzle is the Swabian diminutive of Spatz, literally “little sparrow”. They are also known as Knöpfle (diminutive of button). Before mechanical devices were invented to make spaetzle, the pasta was shaped by hand or with a spoon. With the primary ingredients being flour, eggs and milk, spaetzle can be made quickly. Swabian pro tip: use one more egg than the number of persons who will eat the spätzle. Water is also added to make the dough thinner.

Traditionally, these pasta dumplings are made by scraping long, thin strips of dough off a wooden chopping board (spätzlebrett) into salted, boiling water. When the spaetzle are done they rise to the surface. The firm spaetzle are then skimmed and kept aside for tossing in butter. Herbs like chives can be added for flavour.

For a good spaetzle, the dough needs to be viscous. When it falls into the boiling water, the egg white congeals quickly, while the yolk keeps the dumpling moist.

Spaetzle is the ultimate comfort food. Image: shutterstock.
Spätzle is the Swabian diminutive of Spatz, literally “little sparrow”.
Image: Shutterstock.

While easy, the process is nevertheless time consuming, so several devices have been created to facilitate the process. One resembles a strainer or colander and is called spätzlepresse. Another type is similar to a food mill or coarse grater and is known as spätzlehobel.

Germany’s spaetzle-making tradition dates back to at least the 18th century, if not earlier. But it’s definitely known that, in 1725, Rosino Lentilio, a councillor and personal physician from Württemberg, said that “Knöpflein” and “Spazen” were “all the things that are made from flour”. In those days spelt was the grain of choice. In fact, spelt is high in gluten and does not even require eggs as a binding agent.

Since 2012, Swabian Spätzle and Swabian Knöpfle have the EU “Protected Geographical Indications (PGI)” status, and are noted for being a regional speciality. The law requires that one of the production stages of the product has to take place in the defined region of origin.

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