Spätzle (also spätzli) in Northern Germany Spätzle, Knöpfle or Knödel in Southern Germany, Baden-Württemberg, Bayern, Tirol and Austria, Knöpfli in Schweiz, are a type of egg noodles and small dumplings found in cuisine of Germany and regions of neighboring Austria, Switzerland, Hungary called csipetke, nokedli, galuska, (Spaetzle or Little Dumplings), in France (Alsace), and in the Province of Bolzano-Bozen.
The geographic origin of spätzle is not precisely known; various regions claim to be the originators of the noodle. Written mention of Spätzle has been found in documents dating from 1725, although medieval illustrations are believed to place this noodle at an even earlier date. Noodles more generally have a history extending back 4000 years (see Noodle and Pasta).
Today, in Europe spätzle are largely considered a "Swabian speciality and are generally associated with the German states of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria. The leading German producer is Herrman, which produces approximately 13,000 tons per year. The estimated annual commercial production of spätzle in Germany is approximately 40,000 tons, which does not include spätzle made by individual households. Premade spätzle are also available internationally from companies such as Maggi, a division of Nestlé.
The linguistic origin of Spätzle is debated, whether the name is of German or Italian origin, while the modern term with umlaut “ä” and Swabian diminutive “-le” is distinctly German. Two prevalent theories are as follows:
This theory may reflect that traditional Spätzle are never shaped.
In Spätzle, the -le suffix makes the word a diminutive, hence "little slices", "little sparrows", and "little late ones".
Spätzle dough typically consists of few ingredients, principally eggs, flour, and salt. Often, water is added to produce a thinner dough. One traditional method of determining the correct proportions of ingredients is to use as many eggs as there will be people served, plus one egg. To the eggs an equal volume of water or milk is added. Then gradually enough flour is added to reach the desired consistency. This varies from a very soft, sticky dough to a very thick batter.
In addition to salt, spices such as nutmeg, dill, or caraway may be used, depending on what foods the spätzle will accompany. For certain specialty dishes, the dough may be enriched with minced pork liver, spinach, or finely grated cheese. Small liver dumplings are frequent additions to soup. In Austrian cuisine, "Speckknödel" (with chopped bacon as ingredient) are added to soup. The consistency of the dough and the method used to form the pasta affects the resulting shape; common variants are button shaped Spätzle (small Knöpfle) and elongated, more noodle-like Spätzle. Handmade Spätzle is formed by scraping strips of dough from a cutting board or by pushing the dough through a mechanical device. Whichever method is used, the noodles are formed directly over a large pot of boiling water (usually) or broth, into which they drop. After boiling gently for about three minutes, the noodles rise to the surface, are drained and served immediately. Several types of special purpose spätzle maker are available, that resemble a strainer, (or colander), a potato ricer, a food mill or coarse grater. Common Spätzle shapes are long thin noodles, thick small dumpling with an elongated shape and small oval or round dumplings (knöpfle, which means buttons). All are more or less irregular. (Commercially made noodles marketed as spätzle may bear little resemblance to handmade spätzle, being more or less regular in shape, and dried.)
Spätzle typically accompany meat dishes prepared with an abundant sauce or gravy, such as rouladen. In Hungary spätzle often are used in soup. Spätzle also are used as a primary ingredient in dishes including: