Spätzle is a traditional German pasta that appears in many forms -- sometimes small, irregularly shaped dumplings that are somewhat similar to gnocchi, sometimes, short, irregularly shaped pasta, and sometimes medium-long, round, thick noodles with a rough surface (the commercial dried versions are more often this last type).
Though they are typically identified with German and Austrian cuisine, they are also very common in the strongly German-influenced Northern Italian region of Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol.
Typically they are served as a side dish accompanied to meat dishes, such as roasts, stews, or sausages. But you can also serve them on their own as a hearty, comforting winter pasta dish.
This quick-and-easy version uses commercial dried spätzle, but it's not difficult to make your own fresh, handmade spätzle. If you are using fresh, reduce the pasta cooking times accordingly -- probably you will need to cook fresh ones only 1-2 minutes max before draining and then tossing in the pan with the mushrooms.
- 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons butter
- 1 small clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
- 1 small shallot, peeled and finely minced
- Coarse sea salt (for the pasta cooking water)
- 1 pint mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (you can use "regular" white mushrooms or any kind of fresh mushroom available)
- 250 grams dried spaetzle/spätzle (or any other dried egg noodles)
- 1 cup light cream
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons finely minced parsley or chives, for garnish (optional)
Set a large pot of water, covered, to boil over high heat (for the pasta).
In a large pan over medium-low heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the garlic and shallot, lower heat to low, and saute until softened and transparent, about 1.5 - 2 minutes.
Add the mushrooms, raise heat to medium-low, and saute until softened and slightly browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl, cover with a lid or inverted plate to keep warm, and set aside.
When the water is boiling, add about 1 tablespoon of coarse sea salt and then, when the water returns to a full rolling boil, the pasta. Cook until just about 2 minutes underdone (based on the timing suggested on the package or until is is somewhat tender, but there is still a white core when you take a bite of a test piece). When it is at that point, drain it and rinse it quickly in cold water, then drain again thoroughly.
Melt the remaining 2 teaspoons of butter in the pan over low heat and add the spaetzle. Add the mushrooms mixture, raise heat to medium and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula, until the spatzle is slightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add the cream, lower heat to low and cook just until heated through and the cream starts to thicken, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt, and pepper. Garnish with the finely minced parsley and/or chives, if using.