The first recipe I ever learned by heart was a very simple spätzle recipe that was given to my mother by her Hungarian mother. Flour, egg, salt, and water in an easy to remember ratio that was a staple with meatloaf and gravy. I still crave this simple recipe, although I’ve tried to spice it up over the years with garlic and onion powder and use it in more complicated dishes like beef stroganoff. Earlier this week, with a third of a can of pumpkin puree left from making a few batches of scones, I decided to be even more adventurous with this childhood staple. I was expecting richer flavor in these pumpkin spätzle I was dreaming up, so I knew that I wanted to make them part of a simple dish and not bury them under a thick gravy. A little olive oil, garlic and shallots, and fresh brussels sprouts were all I needed to create a perfect complement to the pumpkin spätzle. With tart dried cranberries to round out the dish and toasted pecans for crunch the dish is a celebration of simple ingredients and flavors.
To make the spätzle, I stick with the “old world” method of placing the dough on a dinner plate or small cutting board and using a large spoon to cut small peices of dough off and into the boiling water. If you become a frequent spätzle maker and find this method tedious, you can try forcing the dough through the holes of a colander, slotted spoon, or grater. There is even a kitchen tool specifically designed for making spätzle. I find each of the colander/slotted spoon methods messy and frustrating, and I really don’t have the space for yet another kitchen gadget, so I stick to the cutting board method.
Pumpkin Spätzle with Brussels Sprouts
2 cups flour
Dash of salt
1 teaspoon thyme
2/3 cup pureed pumpkin
Ice cold water
1) Begin by prepping all of your veggies: thinly slice the brussels sprouts, slice the shallots into thin strips, roughly dice the garlic. Set these aside. Preheat the oven to 300°F to toast the nuts. Place a large pot of water on the stove to boil.
2) Mix flour, thyme, and salt in a mixing bowl. In a large measuring cup or small bowl, whisk eggs and pumpkin puree together. Make a well in the flour and pour egg/pumpkin mixture into it. Stir together until combined. Add ice water a little at a time (about 3 tablespoons at a time) until a sticky dough forms.
3) Place dough on a dinner plate or cutting board and grab a long teaspoon (the longer the handle the better). Once water has reached a boil begin scraping the dough in small pieces into the boiling water. Ever couple of scrapes, dip your spoon into the boiling water to keep the dough from sticking to it.
4) Once you have scraped the last of the dough into the boiling water, grab a colander and place it under the tap. Let the last dumplings boil for about 2 minutes then drain in the colander and shock the noodle with cold tap water. Set aside to continue draining.
5) Now run the tap water as hot as possible and fill a small bowl. Add cranberries to the water and allow to soak. Spread pecan pieces on cookie sheet and place in pre-heated oven to toast. Cook for 7-10 minutes, stirring halfway through.
6) Add 3 tablespoons olive oil into a large pan and place over medium heat. Add garlic and shallots to the heated oil and sauté until translucent.
7) Add thinly sliced brussels sprouts to the pan and cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring frequently.
8) Increase heat to medium-high and add pumpkin spätzle and drained cranberries. Continue to sauté for 5-10 minutes. Serve with toasted pecans and a sprinkle of cheese on top.