Käsespätzle or cheese-noodle casserole is a popular dish in Germany and people like to recreate it in the U.S. because it is so simple to prepare and tastes so good.
This recipe is foolproof if you take the time to make it right. Homemade spätzle are the best for this dish, although you can substitute dried noodles from the store, if necessary.
Caramelizing the onions takes about 1 hour, the noodles take 30 minutes and the casserole will need to be baked for 35 minutes so plan accordingly.
Gruyère cheese is traditional, but Emmental, raclette or any smooth melting, slightly stinky cheese can be substituted as long as you like it.
- For the Onions:
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 2 medium onions (quartered and sliced)
- For the Spätzle:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup water
- For the Casserole:
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (more or less as needed)
- 2 tablespoons butter (more or less as needed)
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated)
- 4 ounces Gruyère cheese
Caramelize the Onions
- Start by making the caramelized onions about 1 hour before the casserole needs to go into the oven.
- Heat the butter and oil in a nonstick pan on medium. Turn heat to low and add onions. Stir every few minutes for about an hour, or until onions are lightly browned and sweet enough for your taste. Here is more information on caramelizing onions.
- Turn off the heat and set the onions aside.
Make the Spätzle
- Here is a step-by-step guide to making spätzle with a spätlebrett (wooden board used to make drop noodles). You may use a colander to form the noodles or a grater-like device with a hopper on it called a spätzle maker.
- Place a large pot of water on to boil. You can add salt if you wish.
- To make the dough, whisk together the flour and salt in a medium bowl. In a small bowl or measuring cup, beat the eggs with the water and add to the flour-salt mixture.
- Beat for several minutes or until dough is smooth. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes, then beat it again. Add water or flour to adjust consistency to a thick batter (a little thinner than brownie batter).
- Place half of the dough in the hopper of the spätzle maker which is placed over the simmering water. Push and pull the hopper back and forth, creating a dough wave inside the hopper. Little bits of dough are pushed out the other side and drop into the water. They are fatter and more teardrop shaped than the spätzle you make with a board.
- The noodles drop to the bottom of the pot, then rise to the surface. Let them sit there for another 2 or 3 minutes, then scoop them out with a slotted spoon or small sieve. Rinse briefly in hot water, then drain well and set aside.
- Using the second half of the dough, make another batch of noodles. If the noodles stick to the bottom of the pan, give a quick stir to loosen. They should then rise to the top.
Assemble the Casserole
- Butter and line a 1 1/2- to 2-quart casserole dish with breadcrumbs.
- When noodles are done, add them to the (cooled) pan with the caramelized onions. Add the grated nutmeg and 3/4 of the grated cheese and stir to mix.
- Spoon noodles into the casserole, sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake, covered, at 350 F for 20 minutes, then uncovered for 15 minutes. If you like, brown the cheese topping with the broiler during the last 5 minutes.
- Serve hot.