Spaetzle / Spätzle 

Swabian Noodles

Our simple recipe for Spaetzle or Swabian noodles, is made with eggs, buttermilk and wheat flour. I looked forward to writing a simple story about noodle  history, but that was not to be.

Noodles, pasta, or something like it in its miriad global forms can be made from eggs and flour, as said, or plain flour and water. It can also be made from rice, buckwheat, acorns, maize, mung beans, potato starch, canna starch, kudzu root, devil's tongue, breadfruit and kelp, and other starchy or gelatinous substances.
The food as a genus is made from starch or gum paste, and can be cooked fresh or dried. It is thinned somehow, into long threads, tubes, sheets or small balls and other small forms during preparation and or before drying. It can have a good shelf life as a dried food, taking on 600 shapes in Italy, and has hundreds of names in the far East where it is very popular.
These small pieces of dough or dried paste can be baked, toasted (as in Arab cooking), re fried (in stir fries), deep fried, fried and dipped in syrup (as in South African sticky sweets), boiled, cooked in soup, chilled in salad, and made both savory and sweet (as in South African Boeber), depending on your cuisine, and it is so ubiquitous in world cooking that its origins are obscure.
I'll give a brief outline of dates I found.
3000BC  Karala in India is launched as a major global spice port. From here sailors from present day Ethiopa traded between India and the East coast of Africa, who in turn traded with Egypt. This was the beginning of a global exchange of food that has made our cuisines what they are today.
2000 BC to date oldest remains of noodles were found in 2005 in an earthenware bowl at the Lajia archaeological site in Quinghai province in China.
6th Century. I disputed reference to sheet like pasta made in Greece.
4th Century BC. An Etruscan tomb picture depicting the making of noodles (possibly)
206 BC – 220 AD Earliest written record of wheat based noodles from Chinese Han dynasty.
1st Century BC Horace recorded cooking of fried sheets of dough called lagana.

2nd Century AD, the Greek physician Galen refers to mixtures of flour and water called itrion.

3rd to 5th Centuries AD A record in Aramaic in the Jerusalem Talmud that itrium (Latinized name) was eating in Byzantine Palastine.

5th Century AD. Arab writers refer to dried itriyya (pasta) for the first time, and use it as a transportable food for journeys. Wet pasta by implication was already known in the Arab world before this.

9th Century. Arab physician Isho bar Ali defines itriyya as string like semolina dough and dried before cooking. Arab conquest of Sicily that influences Sicilian food and cullinary nomenclature.

12th Century. Historian Muhammad al-Idrisi mentions that itriyya is made and exported from Norman Sicily. And it is also know as a twisted bits of soup noodle to Aramaic speakers in Persia.

13th to 14th Century, written records of the use of pasta appear in Italy.

1279    Pasta listed as an item in an Italian soldier's estate

1295    Marco Polo returned with crates of noodles from China

15th to 17th Century. Pasta had become part of the diet in many Italian monastries.

1725 a physician from Wurttemberg, in what is today Germany, describes 'spazen'

Recent history. Spaetzle also known as Knoepflein has become a Schwabian specialty and similar soft noodles under different names are also eaten in Switzerland, Hungary, Austria, Alsace and so on. German commercial production has risen to forty thousand tons.

The word Spaetzle is the Schwabian diminutive for 'Spatz' or sparrow. Knoepflein are 'little buttons'.

The dough is simple, often just eggs, course flour, like semolina, and salt. Water is added with course meal, and with fine meal eggs may be sufficient. The dough must be soft. Long thin lines are scraped off a wooden board into boiling water, where they cook in a few minutes and rise to the surface to be skimmed off. Special implements have been invented to ease the making. They resemble small colanders or graters. We made ours by scraping a board full of dough with a knife, and by pressing the dough through a colander with a hard spatula. I prefer the latter, as they are fine and tend to cook through better, but the softer larger pieces scraped with a knife are a little more succulent, if you like the taste of raw dough.

Spaetzle usually is served with meat or in soup. It is also served with lentils or with cheese or with  sauerkraut, onion, marjoram and caraway. It can be baked with peppers or contain spinach. It is also served sweet with fresh cherries, or with grated apple in the dough, and both are drizzled with clarified brown butter, sugar and cinamon. Served simply with cheese, salt and pepper or a cream sauce it is dangerously addictive.

Preparation time: 10 minutes 
Cooking time: at least 1 to 2 minutes per batch
Resting time: 0 minutes
Total time needed: at least 20 minutes
Grade of Difficulty: standard


Serves 4


Ingredients for Spaetzle / Swabian noodlesIngredients for Spaetzle / Swabian noodles
  • 500 gram / 1.1 pounds wheat flour
  • 30 gram / 1.06 oz unsalted butter
  • 6 eggs
  • 220 ml / 7.4 oz buttermilk
  • Salt and pepper to taste 


  • Melt butter in a sauce pan, but don't let it heat up, take it off the stove and keep aside for the moment
  • Add flour to a large bowl
  • Add eggs, melted butter, butter milk, salt and pepper
  • Mix all ingredients with a strong wooden spoon or a food processor till you get a wet and sticky dough. This should not take longer than 3 to 5 minutes
  • Let the dough rest for 10 to 15 minutes
  • In a large pot bring 4 liter / 1.05 gallons of salted water to the boil
  • Either scrape small thin lumps of dough with a sharp knife from a plastic board into the boiling water or use a rigid spatula to push lumps of dough through the holes of a colander with a flat bottom, (Both methods will work, both with their own advantages. It's best to try them out and pick the method you prefer)
  • The dough will sink to the bottom of the pot and will rise to the surface once it is done. 
  • Remove all floating Spaetzle with a slotted spoon on a regular basis and place them in a colander or bowl before you add the next batch (Note: Some of the Spaetzle might stick to the bottom of the pot but will come to the surface once lightly touched with the slotted spoon)
  • When all the dough is used up serve them with the dish of your choice

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The History of Spaetzle

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