Melty, rich and warming, Austria’s answer to macaroni cheese is the perfect post-ski pick me up
No Austrian ski trip is complete without tucking into at least one Käsespätzle, or Kasspatzln as it’s known in the local dialect. It’s everything that’s good about mountain food in one super-simple dish.
What is it? Well, the clue is in the name. Käse is German for Cheese and Spätzle is a traditional egg noodle. I like to think of it as an Alpine version of Mac and Cheese – only even more cheesy and filling. But when you’ve been playing hard in the mountains, it’s exactly what you need.
Spätzle makes up the bulk of the dish and is what makes it truly unique. Heavier than most pasta, they look and feel more like gnocchi then anything else. But – and here’s the best bit – they are much (much!) easier to make. First off you mix eggs, water and flour into a thick dough. Then you take a Spätzlehobel (a metal contraption filled with holes), hold it over a pot of boiling water and push the dough through it. The Spätzlehobel does the hard work for you, creating short, thick noodles that fall directly into the water. No kneading, rolling out dough or fiddling around with pasta machines necessary!
You can buy a Spätzlehobel online for around €10 on Amazon, which I’d highly recommend – it’s incredibly easy to use. But with a bit of effort and creativity, you can get a similar effect with a grater or wide-holed colander.
Spätzle can be eaten plain (usually on the side of a meat dish) or turned into something else entirely. I’ve seen both Jägerspätzle (cooked with mushrooms and a gravy-like sauce), and Spinatspätzle, which is served with spinach, ham and cream. But Käsespätzle is easily the best known. It’s found all over Austria, as well as Southern Germany and parts of Switzerland. Every region, every village and every restaurant has its own version of the dish.
My recipe is based on the Kasspatzln found near my home in Tirol, using a mix of Graukäse (a strong-flavoured Tirolean cheese) from the Zillertal Valley and Bergkase (mountain cheese) from the Bregenzerwald, but any spicy, meltable cheese will work well. This is definitely one of those dishes where creativity pays off!
Traditional Tirolean Käsespätzle
Austria's answer to Macaroni cheese, perfect for cold winter days
- 250g flour (pasta flour is best)
- 3 eggs, beaten
- Pinch of salt
- 1 onion, diced
- 150g strong flavoured cheese, crumbled
- 50g butter
- Crispy fried onions
- Parsley (optional)
- Add the flour and a dash of salt to a large mixing bowl, make a well and pour in the eggs. Add the water a bit at a time, while stirring the mixture until it forms a thick dough. It should be fairly stiff, but fluid enough to drop off a spoon.
- Take your Spätzlehobel and place it over a large pot of boiling water. Fill the attachment section with the Spätzle dough and move it back and forth so that the dough is pushed through the holes and into the pan. Repeat as necessary.
- The Spätzle are ready when they float to the top of the pan. Drain them, and then flush with cold water to prevent further cooking.
- Take a skillet or frying pan and fry the onions in the butter until soft.
- Add the Spätzle and warm through, then stir in the cheese until it melts.
- Top with fried onions and parsley and serve.