Until recently I had only heard about spaetzle in passing, not fully understanding what the German fare really was. It’s a loose dough cooked similarly to dumplings by dropping bits of it into boiling water, that emerges more like a pasta than anything dumpling-like. This method and outcome were intriguing, to say the least!
There are some who are blessed with a spaetzle maker to help them push out these noodle-like dumplings. It’s a handheld contraption that is shaped like a very large garlic press. Stuffing the cup full of dough and then pressing the handles together to push the dough through to drop like long tears into the hot water seems to be the most dependable way to make this interesting pasta. However, when one isn’t available there are more options to be had!
For the most skilled, a wet wooden cutting board and a good trusty knife seems to work wonderfully. It requires the dough be put on the board, held above the pot of water, and then deft hands making downward cutting motions to thinly slice the dough and push it into the pot. This seems like a great idea until you realize that that will take a practice that may not be successful the first 20 or so attempts.
The method used in this recipe takes time and hard work, but it guarantees a good outcome without buying a new kitchen tool first. All you need is a colander and a big spoon. The doughy batter slips through the holes in the bottom of the well-used kitchen tool as the spoon makes stirring swipes back and forth to aid in its passage.
After working out the production method for this distinctive and enjoyable spaetzle pasta, it seemed only right to keep things clean with the additions. Some fresh herbs, mustard seeds, butter, and diced thick smoked cured ham were perfect here. Taking a bite proved that this was an ingredient that can absolutely hold its own with much heartier foodstuff or explored in a whole new way!
Butter Sauteed Herb Spaetzle with Crispy Smoked Ham
- 2 ¾ cups all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 egg
- 1 cup milk
Herbs and Ham
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 ounces smoked ham or thick bacon
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 ½ teaspoons chopped fresh dill
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
Mix together the flour, pepper, and salt in a bowl. Add the egg and yolks to the bowl and pour in the milk. Stir well to make a thick batter like consistency.
Prepare the smoked ham or bacon by cutting it into small cubes. Mince the garlic cloves and finely chop the dill and chives.
Bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat.
Using a large colander, add about 1/3 of the spaetzle batter to it. Hold the colander over boiling water and stir the batter with a ladle or spoon, pressing it through the holes in the bottom and side to assist it in dropping into the hot water to cook. Let the spaetzle cook 3-5 minutes or until firm and tender to the bite. Transfer the cooked spaetzle to with a slotted spoon to another colander or bowl between cooking each batch.
Heat the butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Add garlic and mustard seeds to the pan and allow them to cook 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently so the garlic doesn’t burn. Add the ham to the pan and continue to cook until it’s become crisp around the outside; approximately 8 -10 minutes.
Transfer the spaetzle to the pan and stir to coat it in butter, mustard seeds and mix well with the ham. Add the dill to the pan and stir again.
Turn off the heat and add the rest of the chives to the spaetzle, stir and serve immediately.
STEP ONE – PREPARE THE BATTER
Pour the flour into a bowl. Add in the pepper and salt and stir to distribute them throughout and make a well in the center.
Add the egg yolks and egg to the well and pour in the milk. Stir well with a wooden spoon to make a loose dough or very thick batter.
STEP TWO – PREPARE HAM AND HERBS
On a cutting board with a sharp chef’s knife, cut the ham or bacon into small cubes. Peel and mince the garlic cloves and finely chop the dill and chives and set them to the side.
STEP THREE – BOIL WATER
Fill a large pot about halfway with water and bring it to a boil on the stove top over high heat.
STEP FOUR – MAKE THE SPAETZLE
Spoon the spaetzle batter into a colander and position the colander over the boiling water.
Using a wooden spoon or ladle, press the batter through the holes of the colander and into the hot water using a back and forth grinding type of motion. The batter will drip into the water and cook fairly quickly.
Alternatively, if there is a spaetzle maker available, use it as it is much easier and quicker to use.
Do this in batches, transferring the cooked spaetzle to a colander to drain off excess water in the sink between each batch.
STEP FIVE – MELT THE BUTTER AND COOK THE HAM
Melt the butter in a saute pan before adding the garlic and mustard seeds. Stir them occasionally as they cook and brown.
Toss the ham into the pan and let it brown until nice and crisp around the edges while stirring and coating it with the butter.
STEP SIX – ADD SPAETZLE TO THE PAN
Once the ham has browned, add the spaetzle to it and stir to combine and coat the spaetzle with the butter.
Add the dill stir again. Allow it to cook 1-2 minutes just to warm it through.
STEP SEVEN – ADD CHIVES AND SERVE
Turn off the heat and add the chives to the pan. Stir it well and serve the spaetzle immediately.
This is a fairly simple, fresh recipe to use for homemade spaetzle, but it’s the basics of the spaetzle batter that matter here. Spaetzle is a dish that can be used in so many ways, be it savory or even sweet if so desired, and should definitely be played within the kitchen!
What is your favorite way to enjoy a plate of spaetzle? Do you have a family recipe, or is it a fun experiment? Please, be sure to let us know!
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.