It's no secret that we love spätzle in Germany. The rest of the world may think that the only real pasta experts are Italian, but we're on a mission to spread the spätzle love too. But where did spätzle come from – and what do sparrows have to do with it?
Making spätzle the proper way
So, how's it different from the Italian dish? It's all in the mix. Spätzle is made from a wetter dough than pasta, so it's much softer – so soft, in fact, that it can't be rolled out like Italian pasta. You have to do it by hand, push it through a colander, or invest in a special spätzle maker. Zum Brunnstein in Munich make it themselves, serving it with their classic homemade dishes.
The dish originated in the south, in historic Schwaben. Records only date back to 1725, but word of mouth implies it's much older than that. These days, it's a Baden-Wurttemberg specialty, but you'll find it served in restaurants all over the country. Bavarians add beer to the dough for an extra malty kick, while other regions use sparkling water for a lighter texture.
While it's easy to dig into a bowl of spätzle on its own, it's best when used alongside other ingredients. Zum Brunnstein in Munich make their own spätzle fresh every day, for use in traditional recipes with a rustic vibe. It makes a great side to pork schnitzel, cooked up in a Jaeger-based sauce for an extra herby kick – the spätzle balances the strong, savoury meat while also absorbing some of its flavours.
If you want something even more substantial, try käsespätzle. The spätzle is smothered in a thick, cheesy sauce, and accompanied by juicy cuts of meat and a sprinkle of spring onions. It's heavy, hearty and filling – the perfect meal for when you're craving something comforting.
Spätzle and sparrows
One story goes that spätzle is named 'little sparrows' because of its shape. Early spätzle was cut into dumplings, and these were supposedly bird-shaped (as much as it's possible to make dumplings look like sparrows).
Another story is that spätzle comes from an Italian word, spezzato, which literally means 'small pieces'. This word then got changed by the Schwabens into 'spätzle' over the course of many years. But that's a pretty boring origin story – we'd much rather have a plate of sparrow doppelgängers than small pieces.
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