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Spaetzle und Linsen—Homemade Spaetzle Noodles with Lentil Sauce

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.

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.