A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across a post on The Passionate Cook with a subtle little link to a spaetzle recipe on What’s for Lunch, Honey . Those who have read my blog a bit will know that I’m something of a spaetzle junkie. I just love the little doughy dumplings, so much so that Dylan went out and bought me a spaetzle maker to help feed my cravings. With a quick perusal of the recipe on What’s for lunch, honey, I set out to buy the red onions and cheese I’d need and vaulted the recipe to the top of my list of things to try.
It only occurred to me as I actually started making the spaetzle last night, that the recipe was not so much for spaetzle as I’ve known it, but rather for what struck me as a German version of mac and cheese. I think what threw me off was my cluelessness about the metric system. What I’d imagined might be enough cheese to make a creamy sauce was actually enough to making a giant, cheesy casserole. Kaesepaetzle, much as the name would imply, is lovely layers of spaetzle and cheese (a Gruyere and Emmentaler blend, in my case) with sauteed red onions on top. And though it wasn’t what I was expected when I started to make it, what could be better than mixing two of my favorite foods, spaetzle and mac and cheese?
The recipe for the spaetzle itself was a little more involved that the spaetzle recipe I’ve previously used, so I might go back to that one in the future. But the great thing about this recipe is that it could be adapted to work with any mac and cheese recipe, I’d imagine. While no one in their right mind would make the elbow-shaped pasta typically used in mac and cheese by hand, spaetzle is very quick and easy to make yourself, making the finished product that much more homemade. Think of it as a sophisticated, European twist on mac and cheese that even the most finicky eater could love.
Many thanks to Meeta from What’s for Lunch, Honey for introducing me to this delightful new spaetzle variation from the Allgaeu region of Germany. I used a scale to measure the weights of the various ingredients as they were listed in the original recipe- apologies to American cooks who will have to do that themselves. And you’ll note that there are some imprecisions in the recipe, which can be stressful for a by-the-book cook like me, but I think the point is that you can be a little “off” with this one and it will still turn out great. I’ve included the original recipe and noted where I made changes.
European mac and cheese (or Allgaeuer Kaesespaetzle)– serves approximately 6-8
500g sifted flour
200-250 ml water
500g onions, preferably red, cut in half and then slice
125g Emmentaler – grated
225g Bergkaese or Gruyère – grated
100g butter (Superspark used less, maybe 50-60 grams)
Salt and pepper
1. In a mixing bowl add the flour and all the eggs. With an electric dough kneader, start kneading the mixture. Slowly add the water until the dough in a sticky, runny mass. A good test is when it slowly runs from a spoon in a gooey consistency. (Superspark: I decided not to bother with the kitchenaid and just mixed it by hand. My dough was a little less runny, which makes for smaller spaetzle, I think.) Set aside and covered, allow to rest for half an hour.
3. Preheat over to 180 degrees Celsius, approximately 350 degress Farenheit. In a hot frying pan melt part of the butter and gently sautè the onion rings until they are soft and slightly caramelized. Meanwhile, mix the two types of cheeses together in a bowl.
2. In a large pot bring salted water to a boil. Fill the press until the bottom is covered with the dough. Gently press the dough in small “blobs” or buttons into the boiling water using a spaetzle maker or a large-holed colander. Sieve out each batch after approx. 2 minutes or when the spaetzle swim on the surface of the water. Repeat this until the dough has been used up.
3. In an oven proof dish, cover the bottom with some spaetzle, cover this with a layer of cheese. Add another layer of spaetzle, then a layer of cheese. Repeat this method until all the ingredients have been used up. The top layer should be covered with a layer of cheese. Salt and pepper each layer as you go along. Spread the caramelized onions over the top. Sprinkle the top with a few butter flakes. Cover and place in the oven and bake until the cheeses have melted – aprox. 15 minutes.