Spaetzle is a type of German egg noodle that is chewy, delicious, and versatile. It can be served as a side dish, added to soups and stews, or even used in place of pasta in casseroles and bakes. While fresh spaetzle is ideal, the dried version is a handy storecupboard staple that is easy to cook. So let’s dive into this ultimate guide on how to cook dried spaetzle perfectly every time!
Dried spaetzle is essentially fresh spaetzle that has been dehydrated to extend its shelf life. The noodles are made from a simple dough of flour, eggs, water, and sometimes salt or spices. This dough is then pressed or scraped through a spaetzle maker or colander into boiling water, before being dried.
This preservation method allows you to enjoy tasty spaetzle anytime without having to make it from scratch. Dried spaetzle cooks up just like fresh in only 10-15 minutes. All it takes is some boiling water and a few easy tips for absolutely perfect noodles.
Here’s what we’ll cover in this guide:
- The history and background of spaetzle
- Dried vs. fresh spaetzle
- Tips for cooking dried spaetzle
- The right pots and tools
- Cooking time
- Resting and draining
- Reheating leftovers
- Serving suggestions and recipe ideas
After reading, you’ll be a pro at cooking this German specialty! So let’s get boiling.
A Brief History of Spaetzle
Spaetzle (SHPACE-tuh-luh) has its origins in the Swabia region of Germany. Its name comes from the German word for “little sparrow”, likely due to the noodles’ irregular, dumpling-like shape.
The traditional way of making spaetzle was scraping balls of dough off a wooden board into boiling water using a blunt knife. The dough would fall into the water in little lumps and dumplings.
Spaetzle makers with holes that press out long strands of dough only appeared in the 19th century. But the basic ingredients and cooking method remain largely unchanged for centuries.
As German immigrants came to America, spaetzle traveled with them. Today it is a beloved staple in German-American communities across the Midwest. It’s also grown popular far beyond its ancestral home, thanks to its simple but satisfying flavor and texture.
Dried vs. Fresh Spaetzle
Fresh spaetzle made completely from scratch is hard to beat. But dried spaetzle offers several advantages:
Long shelf life – Fresh spaetzle only keeps for 2-3 days in the fridge. Dried spaetzle sealed in an airtight bag or container will last 6-12 months in the pantry.
Faster cooking time – Fresh spaetzle takes 3-5 minutes to cook after shaping. Dried only needs 1-2 minutes in boiling water.
More widely available – Dried spaetzle can be found in most grocery stores year-round. Fresh may require a trip to a German or specialty market.
Easier storage – Dried spaetzle takes up much less space until you need to cook it. And it’s lighter than cartons of fresh pasta.
Lower cost – Drying allows spaetzle to be produced in large batches efficiently. So dried is often cheaper per pound than fresh.
However, one downside of dried vs. fresh spaetzle is a slightly softer, less “al dente” texture when cooked. But besides that, dried makes an excellent pantry staple to have on hand anytime.
Tips for Cooking Dried Spaetzle
Cooking dried spaetzle is simple. But there are a few tips to follow for perfect noodles every time.
Choose the Right Pot and Tools
Pot – A medium saucepan with tall straight sides works best. This gives the noodles room to move around freely while cooking. Nonstick is ideal to prevent sticking, but stainless steel also works.
Slotted spoon or mesh strainer – Have one of these tools ready to fish out and drain the spaetzle once cooked. A typical colander with larger holes may let smaller pieces slip through.
Spaetzle maker (optional) – For those who want freshly shaped noodles, you can briefly rehydrate dried spaetzle then press it through a spaetzle maker into the pot. But this isn’t required.
Once your pot of salted water reaches a rolling boil, add the spaetzle and cook for just 1-2 minutes. Don’t walk away, as dried cooks much faster than fresh. Test a piece after 1 minute – it should be fully cooked but still have a bit of firmness when bitten.
If the batch seems a little underdone, let cook another 30 seconds to 1 minute. But be careful not to overcook or the noodles may get mushy.
For those using a spaetzle maker, you may need up to 3 minutes for the freshly pressed noodles to fully cook through. So test frequently after 1 minute.
Rest, Drain, and Stop Cooking
As soon as the spaetzle is done, scoop out a cup or two of the boiling cooking water. Then drain the noodles into a colander.
Return the hot starchy water to the pot and place the drained spaetzle back in the pot. The little bit of hot water will gently keep cooking and prevent overcooking.
Let rest 1-2 minutes off heat for the perfect tender but toothsome texture.
Cooked spaetzle will keep chilled 3-4 days. To reheat, add a tablespoon or two of water or broth to a skillet. Add the spaetzle and cook over medium heat until warmed through, about 3-5 minutes. Add a knob of butter at the end for extra richness and flavor.
This gentle reheating in a little liquid helps restore moisture and prevent dried out leftovers. Delicious!
Serving Suggestions for Dried Spaetzle
Now that you know how to cook it perfectly al dente, let’s get to the fun part – eating! Here are some of my favorite ways to serve dried spaetzle:
As a Side Dish
The simplest way to enjoy spaetzle is tossed in a little butter or olive oil and sprinkled with fresh parsley. The chewy eggy noodles pair perfectly with sausages, pork chops, schnitzel, or roast chicken.
Pro tips: Toss the hot cooked spaetzle with butter and a sprinkle of nutmeg for a touch of warmth. Or add some chopped fresh herbs like chives, dill, or tarragon.
Spaetzle is a natural addition to soups, adding fun bites of texture. It’s perfect in chicken noodle, beef barley, or hearty vegetable soups.
Pro tips: Cook the spaetzle separately then add to soup to avoid mushiness. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top for extra richness.
As a Casserole Base
Use spaetzle in place of egg noodles or pasta in any baked casserole recipe. The soft doughy noodles soak up sauces beautifully.
Pro tips: Toss spaetzle with creamy cheese sauce and bake with ham and peas for an easy weeknight meal. Or make a spaetzle “lasagna” by layering noodles, sauce, and cheeses.
In One-Skillet Meals
Sauté onions, veggies, and cubed meat in a skillet. Then add cooked spaetzle and sauce for an easy complete meal.
Pro tips: Brown some Italian sausage with bell peppers and onions. Deglaze with red wine, then add tomato sauce and spaetzle for a fast sausage pasta.
Spaetzle is tailor-made for gravy! Smother it in sausage, chicken, or beef gravy for downhome comfort food.
Pro tips: For an Oktoberfest meal, make schnitzel or brats with spaetzle smothered in mushroom gravy. Add a side of sweet and sour red cabbage.
Käsespätzle (Cheese Spaetzle)
This Austrian dish tops cooked spaetzle with onions sautéed in butter, then bakes it under a blanket of melted cheese. Crispy cheese edges contrast with the soft noodles.
Pro tips: Use a blend of cheeses like cheddar, Gruyère, and/or fontina. Add crispy fried onions on top for extra texture and crunch.
With so many tasty options, you’ll want to keep your pantry stocked with dried spaetzle. It’s endlessly adaptable and perfect for quick weeknight meals or impressive holiday spreads.
Now that you know how to cook dried spaetzle to al dente perfection, you can enjoy this satisfying German specialty anytime. Just boil some salted water, gently cook the noodles 1-2 minutes, drain and rest, then toss with your favorite sauces or gravies. From soups to casseroles, the possibilities are endless. Guten appetit!