Spaetzle, or the German version of little dumplings, won me over at first bite. They’re heftier, more dense than Italian pasta, and their short, ridged, rustic shapes are so satisfying to sink your teeth into. Simply toss them in butter and herbs, and they make the perfect accompaniment to a hearty roast; they can also be dressed up with vegetables, meat, and/or cheese for a most delectable dish on their own.
I decided to inaugurate my new stocking stuffer — a handy little spaetzle maker — with a twist of my own, part German, part Italian: sage-infused butter, sweet butternut squash, and crisped salty pancetta. Finished off with a sprinkling of freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano, these little bites are a piece of Alpine paradise:
I highly recommend my little Spaetzle maker too (you can get it online for under 10 bucks) — it makes an easy job of dropping the globs of dough into boiling water. Enjoy!
Spaetzle with Roasted Butternut Squash, Pancetta & Sage
(The spaetzle dough recipe comes from the Norpro spaetzle maker package — I was planning to test out other recipes to compare, but this one is a keeper!)
- 1 butternut squash
- 1 drizzle of olive oil
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 8 thin strips of pancetta (or speck or other salty pork), cut into 1- by 2- cm. dice
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 Tbs. butter
- 4 sage leaves (whole), plus one more chopped for garnish
- Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, to taste
For the dough:
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup whole milk
- 3 cups flour
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1. First, roast the butternut squash in an oven pre-heated to 375F (190 C): Halve it, scoop out the seeds, chop into 2- by 1-inch chunks and peel the skin off, then coat with olive oil and spread on a foil-lined baking sheet in one layer, sprinkle with salt & pepper and roast until tender and golden, about 45 minutes.
2. Prepare the spaetzle dough: (From the Norpro directions) Beat eggs until foamy and then combine with milk. Mix together flour, salt & nutmeg. Add to eggs and milk a little at a time. The dough will be very stiff and elastic. Consistency of the dough is the most important thing. If batter seems too thick, add 1 tablespoon of water at a time to desired consistency (Note: I didn’t find it necessary to add any water; the dough was very thick & sticky but worked great that way). Prepare a medium pot of water (that will comfortably fit the spaetzle maker on top) and bring to a boil.
3. In a saute pan, crisp the diced pancetta over medium-high heat, then push to the sides of the pan. Add some of the butter to the middle of the pan and when melted, add the minced shallot and cook over medium heat until translucent, 2-3 minutes. Turn to low and melt the remaining butter and add the sage leaves, cook until fragrant. Add the chunks of roasted butternut squash and mix well; maintain a low heat while you boil the spaetzle.
4. To boil the spaetzle: Fill the square basket of the spaetzle maker and place over the pot of boiling water (or broth). As you slide the basket back and forth, the tiny dumplings will drop into the boiling liquid. When done, they will rise to the surface (about 2-3 minutes). Use a large slotted spoon or strainer to strain them out. Transfer directly to the warm saute pan and continue in batches until done. Note: the spaetzle are also delicious browned, so if you prefer them this way, keep the heat under the pan higher and stir every few minutes to evenly brown.
5. Give the contents of the pan a last good mix, add more seasoning and oil or butter as needed. Scoop into bowls, sprinkle with freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano and any other garnishes (I had an extra strip of uncrisped pancetta that I tore and tossed in, along with a finely chopped sage leaf) and serve immediately.