Spaetzle with Swiss Cheese

>> Monday, October 5, 2015

Spaetzle dumplings

After eating spaetzle my whole life, a favorite recipe of my grandmother's, I was startled to find that the culinary world is now into spaetzle. It's popping up on menus and in food magazines all over the place.

If you haven't heard of spaetzle before, they are little noodles or dumplings made of flour, milk, and egg pressed through a colander or spaeztle press. My sister brought me an authentic Kull metal press from Germany 30 years ago. We also use it for juicing lemons and limes.

Kull Spaetzle Press

People pronounce it either SHPET-zul or SHPET-zlah or SHPET-zlee (regional differences, maybe?). They can be fluffy or a little chewy, depending on the cook and the recipe. Spaetzle can be used in place of any starch like pasta, polenta, egg noodles, dumplings, mashed potatoes, or rice. I loved it when my mom or my grandma made a savory pork roast with plenty of gravy poured over all those little noodles.

But spaetzle with Swiss cheese is a long-time family favorite which is also a main dish that's cheap and quick to make. It's a German version of mac and cheese, really. Like all family recipes that are passed along for years, people in my family make it slightly differently. My mom makes a very simple version; my Aunt Monica browns butter very darkly before tossing with the noodles, and we like to add pepper and garlic and a bit of seasoned bread crumbs because, well, you know we love more flavor.

At the famous Mader's Restaurant in Milwaukee, and the Chicago Brauhaus, I've had spaetzle that was pan-fried as a side dish. I've tried pan-frying the noodles in butter after boiling them, and it works particularly well with the grated cheese. You might want to try it both ways and see what you like best.

This basic spaetzle recipe is just a start. Try adding chopped herbs or spices, or some mustard, or sour cream, for extra flavor, as it suggests in this Chicago Tribune article on spaetzle.


Basic spaeztle noodles

4 eggs (my mom estimates 1 egg per person)
1/2 cup of milk, plus extra for consistency
3 cups of flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper (optional)
1 tsp garlic powder (optional)

For the topping

4 cups grated Swiss cheese (measure after grating)
4 tbsp butter
1 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs (optional)


Whisk together the eggs and milk. In a separate bowl, stir together the rest of the ingredients. Slowly add the egg mixture to the flour mixture, stirring constantly. The batter or dough should be similar to a very thick, slightly sticky bread dough, depending on how tender or chewy you like the dumplings. After you make it a few times, you'll figure out the consistency you want. Add more milk or water if you want to adjust the texture.

Spaetzel dough

If you want light, fluffy noodles, stop stirring as soon as the ingredients are combined; for firmer noodles, stir for five minutes before cooking.

Heat a pot of water to boiling. Place a large scoop of the dough in the colander or spaetzle maker and press the dough through the holes. They should fall through in a solid stream; you may have to cut off the noodles to free them from the holes. Stir the noodles immediately to keep them from sticking together.

Kull Spetzle Press

Boil for 5 minutes, then drain well. Repeat with the rest of the dough, while keeping the finished noodles warm.

If you want to pan-fry the noodles after they are cooked, heat up the butter in a frying pan until the foaming stops. Dump in the noodles and stir them around so they're coated with butter. Cook until golden brown on one side, then flip over and brown the other side.

Otherwise, melt the butter and stir into the noodles. Toss the noodles with the Swiss cheese, then sprinkle with the breadcrumbs before serving.

My mom always serves Spaeztle With Swiss along with homegrown peaches she canned herself, and I can't improve on that combo.

Serves 4-6 as a main dish, 8 as a side dish. 


Anonymous,  June 3, 2017 at 12:17 PM  

My grandma who was born in Switzerland made this for us and we still love it today. She made it with browned onions in the butter pouring it on top of the hot noodles and finally diced Swiss cheese and mixing it altogether. Nice and gooey.It's to die for. Definitely not diet food.

Angela Williams Duea June 5, 2017 at 11:02 AM  

Oh, that sounds wonderful! I am going to have to try your grandma's recipe.

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