Oct 7
2009

Spaetzle und Linsen—Homemade Spaetzle Noodles with Lentil Sauce

in Beans & Legumes, Dumplings, Family, Fuji Favorites, German, Recipes By Region, Recipes by Type, Rice & Noodles

“We all grow up with the weight of history on us.  Our ancestors dwell in the attics of our brains as they do in the spiraling chains of knowledge hidden in ever cell of our bodies.” — Shirley Abbott

I’m very proud of my German heritage and the wonderful traditions that I grew up with as a result of it.  I’ve always loved listening to my mom tell stories about my grandmother and great-grandmother–both German immigrants. My mom recently wrote down some of her memories of my Oma (my great-grandmother).  She said,

When I was growing up, my German Oma used to visit for a week or more at a time. Oma spoke almost no English, and I never learned German. However, she was a terrific cook and took over the cooking when she came.  Oma, who had trained under a chef in Switzerland after World War I, could make an amazing meal out of almost nothing. I have wonderful memories of her Pfannekuchen (thick, spongy, pan-sized pancakes spread with jam or sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and rolled up like a crepe). She could make potatoes in a hundred different ways. (In fact, she took care of us a few times while Mom took a trip to Germany in the summer, and I remember eating some type of potato dish virtually every day and using almost none of the food money Mom left behind.) She made an incredible soup called Maultaschen (seasoned ground meat wrapped in homemade noodles and boiled in a savory broth) that took hours to prepare. Her Kuchen was delicious and her cookies signaled the coming of Christmas, but the dish I waited for and wanted most of all was Spaetzle und Linsen, or homemade noodles with lentil sauce. If there is a German comfort food, this is it.  To my knowledge, Oma never ever used a recipe. She had everything in her head. Luckily, my two oldest sisters had the foresight to write down some of Oma’s recipes. They sat with her in the kitchen while she cooked, and they recorded all the necessary measurements and directions.

We went to visit my parents this past weekend and my mom proposed we have an Oktoberfest meal, complete with Spaetzle und Linsen.  When I was growing up, my mom often made the lentil sauce and served it over spaetzle or egg noodles, a meal which was, and still is, one of my all-time favorites.  I think she occasionally chose to forego making the spaetzle because although dough is easy to make, actually making the noodles is really a two-person job. Spaetzle is a type of pasta/dumpling popular in Germany.

They taste like a cross between pasta and dumplings–tender with a bit of chewiness.  To make spaetzle, the dough is first put into the barrel of the spaetzle maker (though a colander can be used–method described below*),

and then you have to force the handles together which pushes the dough out of tiny little holes in the bottom of the barrel (this alone is a difficult job) into a pot of boiling water.

Then when the strings of dough start to dangle in the water, you have to use a knife to cut them from the bottom of the barrel and quickly stir them into boiling water so that they don’t stick together.

You repeat this process until the barrel is empty, then wait for the noodles to cook (when they float to the top they’re done).

When they are done you ladle them out into a bowl, let the water return to a boil, and start all over again.

We ate our spaetzle and lentils with some wurst and a fabulous kopsalat (using this recipe), a salad made with bacon and a hot vinegar dressing that slightly wilts the lettuce.

Although we don’t drink alcohol, we gave a nod to our roots,

with some IBC root beer.

It was fun to introduce Squirrel and Bug to spaetzle, and luckily they both loved it.

A.M. Homes wrote, in an article in the April 2007 issue of O Magazine, “Every family has a story that it tells itself, that it passes on to the children and grandchildren . . . it becomes the flagpole that the family hangs its identify from.”  I believe that a family’s story is also told through “food traditions.”  Even if it’s mom’s tuna casserole that someone used to feed to the dog underneath the dinner table, there’s still a story, a thread that weaves a family’s history together.  Spaetzle and lentils is a family tradition that has bound my family’s story to that of my great-grandmother’s.

Now as my own children grow older, I will make spaetzle and lentils for them and make sure that I tell them about the amazing woman who used to make it for their grandma.  Here is the recipe that one of my mother’s sisters wrote down over 25 years ago while watching Oma cook, and some additional tips from one of her other sisters.

Print This Recipe

Oma’s Spaetzle und Linsen (Spaetzle and Lentils)

Makes 4 generous servings

Lentil Sauce:
1 pound dried brown lentils (about 2 cups)
2 quarts of water
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 beef bouillon cubes
1 cup cold water
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
pepper to taste

1. Rinse and sort the lentils.  (Get rid of the bad ones!) If they are old, soak them overnight.

2. Put the lentils and water in a large pot and bring the water to a boil.  Simmer the unril tender–35 minutes or more, depending on the age of the lentils.  Add the bouillon cubes.  Don’t let the lentils burn or stick.  Add more water if necessary.  They will eventually form a sauce and thicken (the excess water will boil off).

3. As the lentils finish cooking, saute the onion in the butter until it is tender.  Then add the flour and and cook and stir until the mixture just begins to brown.  Add the cold water to the onion mixture, and cook and stir until smooth.  Add the onion mixture to the lentils and salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer for 5 minutes and then serve over spaetzle.

Good variations: (1) Add bacon ends or pieces to cooking lentils (make sure to reduce the amount of salt and omit the butter, as the bacon will provide both extra salt and fat).  (2) Add ham or sliced German wurst to the cooked lentils.

** The completed lentil sauce freezes very well, or you can just freeze the cooked lentils and complete the sauce when you’re ready.  This is a good make-ahead dish and in fact tastes better the second day.  Leftovers can be added to soups and stews.

Spaetzle
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 eggs
1 cup water
1 tablespoon salt

1. Add all of the ingredients to a mixing bowl and beat thoroughly, adding more water or flour to get a sticky, elastic dough.  This has to be done by hand with a wooden spoon unless you have a dough hook on your mixer.

2. In a large pot, bring 3 quarts of salted water to a boil.  Add a little oil or butter to the water to help cut down on foam and to prevent the spaetzle from sticking together.  Squeeze the dough in batches through a spaetzle maker into the boiling water. You can cook two batches at a time.  Be sure to stir the noodles as soon as you have added them to the water so they don’t stick together.  Return the water to a boil and simmer for about 2 minutes, or until the spaetzle floats to the top of the water.  Using a slotted spoon, spoon the spaetzle onto a platter.  Continue until all the dough is used up.  (You can reuse the cooking water until it is too foamy.)  Serve with lentils.

**NOTES: It’s very tiring to beat the dough, especially if you get it too stiff.  Don’t chill the dough, or you’ll never be able to get it through the spaetzle maker.  Spaetzle can be made in quantity, frozen, and reheated in the microwave.  Leftovers are great in chicken soup or fried in butter (the latter is the authentic German leftover treatment).

Be sure to soak the spaetzle maker in the sink as soon as you are done with it–it’s a beast to clean otherwise.  To make the job easier, try spraying the inside with cooking spray before you start.

Oma always adjusted this recipe to allow “one egg per person.”

* To make spaetzle using a colander: Place a colander over your pot of boiling water, pour about1/4 of the batter into the colander, and press through the holes with a plastic spatula into the water.

* Spaetzle and lentils makes for wonderful leftovers!  A great way to reheat your spaetzle without drying it out is to beat several eggs (about 1 egg per cup of spaetzle), then toss the egg with noodles. Melt a bit of butter in a skillet,

then add the spaetzle and fry until all of the egg has cooked, and then serve!

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Miranda October 7, 2009 at 7:08 pm

Aww. I do not know where to start. Your daughter is beautiful! So cute!

The salad honestly looks perfect. I will be boiling eggs tomorrow for my salad. Wow. Does that look tasty!

One last thing, the Spaetzle. Wow. I am going to try that. Love it!

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Jenn October 7, 2009 at 7:18 pm

I've always been intrique as to how spaetzle is made. That really neat it's like a mega-sized version of a potato ricer.

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JapanEats October 7, 2009 at 7:21 pm

Gotta love spätzle! My Schwäbisch adventures have had me eating spätzle with everything from bacon and cheese to ketchup, but this is the first time I've seen it served with lentils.

Thanks for the wonderful pics!

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maybelle's mom October 7, 2009 at 7:40 pm

my husband's family is from cincinnati and his grandmother made spaetzle. i am glad to find a good recipe.

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Peggy Bourjaily October 7, 2009 at 7:57 pm

Such a lovely post. Sharing food with family and passing down special foods from generation to generation is so important!!

I love spaetzle and lentils, but have never tried them together. Will definitely give this one a go.

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Andrea@WellnessNotes October 7, 2009 at 10:10 pm

What a lovely post! I think food is indeed one of the ways to pass down family traditions. Unfortunately, so much of it is not written down… How wonderful that you have this recipe and the stories behind it to share with your children…

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Diana Bauman October 8, 2009 at 8:44 am

Rachael, what a beautiful post! It's so great you are able to capture the recipes of your family from so long ago! I just love this!

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Mary October 8, 2009 at 9:26 am

I love your recipe and your story. Thanks for sharing both with us. I love spaetzle, but make mine with the large holes of a food box grater. I had a momentary twinge of jealousy when I saw your press :-). Have a great day.

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Jen October 8, 2009 at 3:01 pm

i haven't had spaetzle since I was last in Germany. that looks wonderful!!! it makes me want to have some now!!

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One Food Guy October 8, 2009 at 6:24 pm

Nice job on the spaetzle! I'm going Berlin in a couple weeks and am so excited for the food, I can't wait!

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Elin October 8, 2009 at 11:23 pm

Hi Racheal,

Great post and congrats on Top 9 ! The spaetzle look delicious and I am want some and thanks for those fabulous step by step pics. Awesome!

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Simply Life October 9, 2009 at 7:13 am

Way to go! That looks so fun and delicious! :)

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Miriam October 9, 2009 at 8:29 am

Lovely post! I love this kind of family stories. Spaetzle are yummy but I've never tried the lentil sauce, in fact I thought pulses were not very highly regarded in Germany.

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Asha @ FSK October 9, 2009 at 8:57 am

Hey Rachel.. kudos on making homemade noodles.. !!

btw the press that you use to make them so resembles the one, Indians from the south (me being one) use to make a fried, savory item called murukku.. :) Interesting that similar items exist so far across cultures!

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Andreas October 9, 2009 at 12:05 pm

Oh, yumm. Leftover Spätzle. :)
In my family, we would ommit the egg and let the spätzle sit in the buttered pan for a little while on medium heat until they develop a crust. Like in making Bratkartoffeln.
We used only store-bought spätzle, but then I'm not from Swabia.

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Nutmeg Nanny October 9, 2009 at 3:13 pm

What a delicious meal! It reminds me of Germany:)

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Barbara November 12, 2009 at 11:33 am

This post takes me back to my grandmother's kitchen and some of my most treasured memories of cooking. My grandmother was of Scandanavian descent and my grandfather's family from Germany so we grew up enjoying many dishes like this when at their home. Add 20 some grandkids to your picture and I can almost see her; thanks!

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JUERGEN December 9, 2009 at 9:03 am

hallo
guten apetitt-bei linse und späzle. ein schwäbisches nationalgericht ! bin erstaunt über die gute zubereitung der späzle- nur die WURST passt überhaupt nicht dazu- es sollten SAITENWÜRSTE  sein-die schmecken am besten dazu.
grusse aus BENNINGEN/am Neckar

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Susanne June 16, 2010 at 12:37 pm

@JUERGEN, ja das stimmt! saitenwuerstle sind am besten dazu….ich komm von Heilbronn am Neckar!!!

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Esther May 4, 2010 at 2:03 pm

have you tried the cheese version? in Bavaria and Austria they’re usually done with bacon, LOTS and lots of swiss cheese, (maybe also some white wine) and roasted onion bits. dee.lish, though it’s hard to get down one of the typical servings you get there ;)

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Susanne June 16, 2010 at 12:36 pm

wow das sieht lecker aus!!!

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Fuji Mama (Rachael) June 16, 2010 at 8:39 pm

@Susanne, Vielen Dank Susanne!

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WineDineTv October 8, 2010 at 6:11 pm

Thank you Rachael, You transported us back to our German table! We used to make Spätzle to go along with Hungarian Goulash or with Pork Roast.
Your little daughter is truly beautiful.

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WineDineTv October 8, 2010 at 6:16 pm

We have to mention how much we enjoyed reading your article about traditions and family! We feel the same that food and wine is like a ribbon, ties families together!
Judit & Corina

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Maja June 19, 2011 at 5:46 am

This looks awesome :) If you don’t find anything like a spaetzle maker, you could also try to make them the old fashioned way (which is really an adventure) and “scrape” (“Spätzle schaben”) them. You basically spread the dough onto a moist wooden board and scrape it into the boiling water with a spatula. If the posting of a youtube link is not allowed, I very much beg your pardon. The link is in German but I think everybody can figure out how it’s done :-)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Y6Ga9hMm4Y

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Mark September 19, 2011 at 2:31 pm

I can totaly relate to your memories growing up eating your grandparents cooking, Spaetzle und Linsen is one of our family favorites as well.

We use no flour in our recipe because the Linsen is vary startchy in itself, we usually use chunks of double smoke bacon as it adds an excellent inviting aroma and taste, I find it is best served slightly runny as this will help to incorperate through the noodles. (the noodles will soak in the flavore if let sit a few minutes prior to eating making the texture of the meal blend perfectly).

Thank you for shareing you story and your recipe.

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Kath (My Funny Little Life) January 14, 2012 at 2:31 pm

This is a typical southern or south-western German dish. (In northern Germany, we don’t eat Spätzle.) I love how many stories are tied to that dish for you. Your Oma must have been an amazing woman! :D The butter-flour mix is called “Mehlschwitze” (roux) over here, although I find it peculiar to add chopped onions to it. But I’m sure that’s good as well. :) Kudos on making the noodles yourself! 8O

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Ron Staiger January 22, 2012 at 4:08 pm

I too watched my Oma cook Linsen und spaetzles and while she used the press to squeeze the spatzles into the boiling water, she also showed me how to cut them off a cutting board with a knife- a method that is a lot more fun, albeit messy. To the two bags of washed, carefully picked over lentils we always added a cup of rough chopped carrots, 1/4 cup diced onions, 2 bay leaves, 1 tsp cracked pepper, 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar (or to your taste- start with 1/4 cup), and 2 packages (or as my Oma would say, ein doppel packung) of Maggi brand Rouladen Sosse and 1 large smoked butt. Cover with spring or filtered water in large pot so that every thing is covered. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover and cook for about 45 minutes stirring often. Remove bay leaves. When the lentils begin to soften and break down, remove two cups and mash to thicken sauce, return to pot and cook for an additional half hour- if needed add a little water but remember this is lentils with sauce not lentil soup.
For the spaetzles the above recipe is ok but we would use six eggs instead of four and add 1/2 tsp of white pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg. Leftover spaetzles are great fried in butter to have with eggs for breakfast instead of home fries. Guten Appetit

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Fuji Mama (Rachael) February 3, 2012 at 2:48 pm

@Ron Staiger, Thank you for sharing your memories Ron!

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Martin June 2, 2012 at 11:50 am

Awesome, I am from the swabian highlands and had “Lensa ond Spätzla mit Soidawürschdla” (as they are called in the swabian dialect) just now. The pictures in this article could have been taken in my parents kitchen :)

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Horst June 17, 2013 at 6:06 pm

Umm…. where is the vinegar????
The lentils need vinegar, preferably apple or red wine, 1-3 tablespoons, it lifts the entire dish without giving it a sour taste as such. Oh it has to be added at the end, else the lentils will not soften.

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