Holidays

Spaetzle: The Thanksgiving Side Dish That No One's Heard Of

Photo Credit: Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

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So hear me out: Boiled dough for Thanksgiving is actually pretty good.

I’d never heard of spaetzle (pronounced “spetch-ly”) until I hit my 20s. But when my best friend invited me over for the family’s annual spaetzle-making bonanza, I knew I had to learn more.

Spaetzle means “little sparrow” in Swabian German because of its delicate nature (not because it looks like a cooked bird). This traditional dish is served with plenty of butter and seasonings, and tastes similar to chewy egg noodles. The best part about this dish is that the flavor options are virtually unlimited. Combos can be sweet or savory and adapted to any meal. For this reason, spaetzle makes the perfect Thanksgiving side dish at almost any dinner table.

Watching my friend and their family create spaetzle for the first time was magical. Every family member had their own turn, carefully scooping up and pressing their spoonful of dough through a special metal press. Everyone would cheer as the noodles floated to the top of the water, where they would be scooped out and added to a pan of butter. The hot noodles were served with herbs and spices that brought out a unique, bready flavor. Let me tell you, it tasted just as good as it looked.

I refused to leave the house until I had a recipe to try on my own. Nowadays, I make spaetzle for Thanksgiving every year. If you’d like to make some spaetzle for yourself, it costs little to make and takes almost no time to cook.

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs 
  • 3 sifted cups of flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt (if unsalted butter is used)
  • 1 cup of whole milk
  • 1 stick of butter
  • Seasonings to taste

Directions:

Beat the three eggs until white and frothy. This should take about three minutes using a mixer, or eight to 10 minutes by hand.

After you’ve beaten your eggs, carefully add in the flour and milk bit by bit. Avoid dumping everything in at once. This could make the noodles stiff and less chewy.

Once dough is sufficiently mixed (and not overbeaten), allow it to rest in a warm, dark place for at least an hour. Treat the mix like bread dough and refrain from checking it to allow it to rise.

As the hour comes to a close, start boiling a pot of salty water. You have two options: Use a special spaetzle maker to create the iconic noodles, or pour the dough through a colander pressed by a spoon or spatula. Either process yields the same effect.

The noodles in the pot should be stirred often to prevent sticking to the sides or bottom. They should only need to boil for three to five minutes, so be ready with a colander to strain them properly. Spaetzle noodles are ready once they float to the top of the pot.

Finally, drain noodles and cook them gently in the pan of unsalted butter. Choose any toppings you’d prefer, from pecans and brown sugar to savory pepper and parsley. The options are limitless.

No matter what your Thanksgiving traditions are, try spicing up the dinner table with a side dish no one is expecting. Trust me — your friends and family will love it.


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