I used to feel incredibly disappointed that I could not find spaetzle at the grocery stores I frequent, but I finally discovered that making my own spaetzle is an easy and (likely) a more delicious option. Of course, once I started making my own I stumbled upon a grocery store that does indeed sell spaetzle. Go figure. What’s spaetzle, you ask? They are heavenly little egg dumplings or egg noodles that originate from central Europe (mainly Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, and Slovenia). For the most part you’ll find spaetzle used similarly to pasta, both being a fairly blank canvas on which you can build a recipe. My version here is simple and perfect for spring and summer. The lemon and herbs balance and brighten the richness of the sauce, which comes together on the stove in just minutes. Once you’ve made spaetzle you’ll be looking for more excuses to eat it on a regular basis!
SPAETZLE WITH A LEMON, HERB, AND BROWNED BUTTER BÉCHAMEL
yields 3 large portions, or 4 medium-small ones
2 and 1/8 cups (265g) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
a few grinds of fresh black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
2/3 cup whole milk
olive oil, for tossing spaetzle after it’s been cooked
lemon, herb, and brown butter béchamel:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons extra for the pan
4 tablespoons fresh herbs, chopped (I used a mixture chives, thyme, and oregano)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
salt and pepper to taste
grated parmesan (optional)
chives, chopped (optional)
Note: You will need something like a spaetzle maker (I use this one) to make the dumplings. I’m not saying you have to go and buy one, though if you do they are only about $10. Alternatively, you can use a colander with large holes, like this, or a flat cheese grater with large holes, like this.
Prep the spaetzle dough: Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Whisk together eggs and milk in a small bowl and then stir into the dry ingredients. Cover and chill dough for at least 1 hour or overnight.
When the dough is chilled and ready: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Using a rubber spatula, press some of spaetzle dough (about ¼ of the dough) through the holes in whichever device you are using (see note above), and into the pot of boiling water. Let the dumpling pieces boil for only 2-3 minutes. They will quickly rise to the surface of the water – skim them off the top with a large slotted spoon or sieve and into a medium colander set on a towel (any excess water will drain out). Make sure to cook the spaetzle in 3-4 batches; overcrowding the pot will cause the dumplings to clump together. When all the spaetzle dough is cooked, toss with a couple glugs of olive oil and set aside.
In a medium saucepan: Melt 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat. When the butter starts to gently sizzle, add the herbs and cook until the butter is browned, whisking constantly. Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute. Add whole milk, a little bit at a time, whisking constantly. Bring to a gentle simmer for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently, until thickened. Remove from heat and slowly whisk in the lemon juice and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons butter. Add the spaetzle and sauté for a few minutes, until either the pieces start to brown or begin to stick to the bottom of the pan. Add the béchamel sauce, stirring gently with the spaetzle for a few minutes, until evenly heated. Serve with chopped chives and grated parmesan (optional).
This tastes best the first day, but will keep well in the refrigerator for a couple additional days.