Instead of your typical starchy side dish of rice, pasta or potatoes, how about trying something new? Have you heard of knöpfli or spätzli? Maybe you’ve had them in a Swiss restaurant during the season of “La Chasse” or “Wildzeit” (wild game) in the fall? These delicious dumpling-noodles are popular in Switzerland, Austria and German. If you want to give them a try, I have an easy knöpfli recipe for you that calls for a squash that’s in season now, the Red Kuri, for some added color and flavor.
To give you some background, the same mixture used to make knöpfli is generally used for making spätzli — the only difference is their shape. Knöpfli are typically smaller and have a rounded shape, while spätzli are longer and thinner. You create the shape of knöpfli by pressing the dough through a special device with small holes. In comparison, spätzli were traditionally made by cutting off individual pieces of the dough from a cutting board, straight into a pot of boiling water. These days, I think these terms can be used interchangeably, as I’ve noticed several examples of what looks like knöpfli referred to as spätzli.
I don’t remember ever trying knöpfli or spätzli until I moved from the United States to Switzerland. I started out buying the pre-made bags of spätzli, which you can find throughout the year at major grocery store chains here in Switzerland, like Coop and Migros. Both my kids loved it.
Then, my mother gave me a knöpfli-maker last year, and I began trying out some recipes at home. I like that with relatively few ingredients, and easy instructions, you can throw together a homemade version for a quick dinner. And, my kids love them!
Plus, knöpfli are very versatile. You can add different ingredients to the dough, like spinach, beets or cheese. Or, you can toss them with vegetables and other ingredients. As a side dish, they pair particularly well with stewed meat that has a rich sauce. I have used the knöpfli recipe below and then stirred in some sauteed bacon and chanterelles. Or, I just simply sprinkle some grated Sbrinz or parmesan cheese on top. While not the lightest of meals, it’s comfort food for cold weather.
If you don’t have a knöpfli or spätzli maker, you don’t necessarily have to buy one — it’s possible to use a colander you may already have at home. Check out Melissa Clark’s video for the New York Times — starting at 2:26 minutes in, you can see her using a colander to make spätzle (As a side note, in Switzerland, it’s called knöpfli or spätzli, but in Germany or Austria, I think it’s more typically referred to as knöpfle or spätzle).
Red Kuri Squash Knöpfli
Adapted from Green Gourmet, published by Migros in 2011.
Allergens: eggs, gluten, milk, wheat
- 300 grams flour
- 12 grams (about 2 teaspoons) salt
- 200 grams Red Kuri squash, roasted and puréed (butternut squash or pumpkin would work too)
- 100 ml milk
- 100 ml water
- 3 eggs
- 1-2 tablespoons butter
- parsley, roughly chopped (optional)
- Sbrinz or Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
- Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, water and puréed squash until well combined.
- Make a well in the center of the flour and salt mixture. Pour the wet ingredients into the well.
- Stir all the ingredients together in the large bowl until the flour is completely incorporated. Then, stir vigorously until the runny dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl as you mix and large air-bubbles appear.
- Let the dough sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes, covered in plastic wrap or a towel.
- Heat a pot of water to boiling and add a pinch of salt. Place the knöpfli/spätzli-maker or colander over the boiling water. Add spoonfuls of the runny dough through the knöpfli/spätzli-maker or colander so they fall into the boiling water. You can do this in batches or all at once, removing them with a slotted spoon to a separate dish, when they float to the top of the water. Drain the excess water from the knöpfli.
- In a frying pan over medium-high heat, melt about 1-2 tablespoons of butter. Add the knöpfli and toss them with the parsley until they are fully warmed and lightly browned. Serve immediately, topped with Sbrinz or parmesan cheese.
Please note: You can also make the knöpfli several hours in advance. Once you finish boiling the knöpfli, rinse them in cold water, drain them and then keep them refrigerated until you plan to use them.
How often do you make knöpfli or spätzli at home? What’s your favorite way to prepare it? Please leave a comment below or send me an email. Many thanks!