Have A Big Spätzle

You deserve a nice, big carb.

Image: Alper Çuğun

You know what a really nice food to eat is? Spätzle. Have you ever just had a big thing of spätzle? You will feel all the better for it. I highly recommend it.

WARNING: I’m sorry, but this is a no-go if you can’t eat gluten, which sucks! You can stop reading this and know that I feel very bad about even recommending it without asking you first if you can even consume spätzle.

What is spätzle, you might be asking? Great question, because it’s not safe to assume that everyone grew up like me, in a Germanic-midwestern household with a strong love of foods that come in yellow. Spätzle is a German egg noodle. Think pasta, but softer. Think gnocchi but eggier. Think quinoa but JK, don’t think about quinoa at all. Look, it’s really just its own kind of food, buy a box, it costs like $3, I don’t know. It translates to “little sparrow,” which is so nice!

Like I said, I grew up in a semi-German household. My dad is German, is what I mean by “semi-.” We had spätzle regularly, and now it’s one of those cupboard staples I keep around as a comfort food. In the winter months especially, it tastes heartier and better than a big pasta does. I mention this is a winter food because spätzle sits heavily in your stomach. For the love of all big carbs, don’t eat spätzle in the summer; you will feel very bad after.

Generally, I love to eat it when I’m stressed and/or very hungry — these two feelings are often together. It reminds me of home in the sense that when I’m done eating it, I can throw my plate in the sink and lie down in bed immediately. It’s a little sweet, too, which is nice and strange and comforting to have in a big carb.

Not dissimilar from a big pasta, however, spätzle can essentially be cooked with whatever you want or have lying around. If the idea of endless possibilities freaks you out, I will tell you how the Hoepfner household has been consuming spätzle for a quarter of a century (at least).

What you need:

A box of spätzle (if you know how to make your own, that’s fine but I don’t)
Two beef sausages or kielbasa
A thing of sauerkraut
Some apple cider vinegar
A small white onion
Salt to taste

You’ll boil a pot of water like you would for pasta and your spätzle will cook in that. I buy the Maggi brand, which says it has to be in the water for twenty minutes or something like that. It doesn’t. Cook yours to a texture and consistency that you like; I think I prefer mine closer to al dente and drain it after about twelve minutes.

Cut up your sausages into maybe half-inch-wide slices or a little bigger Toss those in with the sauerkraut (as much as your body can handle, honestly) and truly just a splash of apple cider vinegar in a pot. You do not need a lot of apple cider vinegar. Have you smelled apple cider vinegar? Like I said, just a splash. All of these ingredients are technically pre-cooked, so you’ll just want to mix them together on a low heat so they can absorb flavors.

In a small pan, caramelize the onion. This is just mixing onion slices and butter, and then cooking until the onion browns and it smells very sweet. How long does caramelization take? I have no idea. I also will just eat white onion cooked in butter plain because I am a psychopath. It’s also worth noting, at this point, that all of the foods you are cooking are going to make your kitchen and/or entire home smell like sauerkraut and onions. If you’re like me, that’s a big “hell yeah,” but this is also one of those meals you might want to open a window after cooking.

Once your onions have caramelized, and your spätzle has puffed up, and your sauerkraut and sausage and vinegar mixture has melded nicely, you can take everything everything off the heat and mix it all together and eat it. Or eat it all separately on the same plate or do whatever you want. I don’t live with you. This is my favorite thing to cook and eat. It tastes like a night inside. It tastes like home. You will have leftovers from this portion size and they’ll smell weird, generally speaking, but it’ll be fine and a heartier lunch than a desk salad will ever be.

Like I said, there are multiple ways to make spätzle. Molly Yeh’s new cookbook suggests making it with bacon and Brussels sprouts, which, like, yes, of course, obviously. I’m serious, though. And you don’t have to make it with meat, either! This works with just sauerkraut and a vegetable or something like that. One time I had a vegetarian roommate who just ate sauerkraut straight from the jar but that’s besides the point. Make a big spätzle. Make it for yourself, make it for friends. The possibilities are endless, and the food is very good.

Fran Hoepfner is a writer living in Chicago.