I've been a bit cheese obsessed lately. Maybe it's because I'm finally back in a place where I don't have to take out a loan to actually buy good cheese. Ahem. Or maybe it's because I've been working on my portfolio and bought the magazine Sale e pepe, which came with an additional smaller magazine entirely dedicated to recipes using Italian cheeses. 60 mouth-watering, cheese-heavy recipes, which I may or may not have looked at a good ten times. For portfolio purposes, naturally.
For whatever it's worth, in the last week we've had farfalle with gorgonzola, prosciutto and walnuts; oven-baked mezze maniche with mushrooms, mozzarella and parmesan; a pizza strudel with mozzarella and burrata; and now this - Kasspatzln, made with a mixture of parmesan and Bergkäse (literally: mountain cheese).
For those unfamiliar with Spatzln (aka Spatzlen/Spätzle/Spätzli/Knöpfle/Nockerl etc, depending on their from or where you eat them), they are a type of 'noodle' - for lack of a better word - most commonly associated with Swabian cuisine, but are also used very often in Austrian, Swiss, Hungarian and South Tyrolean dishes.
They're made from a simple, rather 'tough' dough of flour, eggs, salt, water/milk. Traditionally, the dough is then placed on a small chopping board, and little bits are flicked off the edge into salted, boiling water. They're cooked very briefly, and as soon as they rise up to the surface of the water, they're ready to be removed with a slotted spoon.
Since flicking off little bits of dough can be rather time consuming, nowadays there are spätzle devices which resemble coarse strainers/potato ricers or graters. I use the latter. They make the whole process a cinch.
Spatzln are often served as a side for meat dishes - growing up I most often had them along with gulasch - or they can shine on their own. A South Tyrolean specialty is to add spinach to the dough, to make Spinatspatzln, which are then tossed in a ham and cream sauce and served with a grating of parmesan cheese. They are quite lovely. In fact, that was actually the dish I was meant to be making today, but then I realized we were out of spinach and didn't have time to run to the store.
Luckily, we had plenty of cheese.
So I made Kasspatzln instead.
I should probably lay off the cheese for a while, but in my defense I almost had to make this recipe. As part of my portfolio, I'm compiling a list of typical South Tyrolean dishes, which of course need to be tested...
So this was simply part of my homework.
If only all homework was always this delicious.
Kasspatzln // Cheese spätzle with fried onions
1 teaspoon of salt
3 medium eggs
150g Bergkäse ('mountain cheese') - though you can use any semi-hard, aromatic cheese you like, such as Emmentaler, Edamer, or a good cheddar, grated
30-50g Parmesan cheese, grated
2 to 3 onions, thinly sliced
Butter or oil for frying
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Preheat oven to 180°C // 350°C.
In a large bowl, combine flour, salt and eggs. Gradually add the milk. Using a wooden spoon and some elbow grease, stir the dough until it has come together, little bubbles form, and is rather tough. It should be quite thick and run off the spoon very slowly.
Once the water is boiling, prepare a large bowl to place the cooked spatzln in and have a slotted spoon on hand to remove the cooked ones from the pot. Using your spätzle device (or any gadget in your kitchen which you can place over a pan of boiling water and has small holes to press the dough through)* press a portion of the dough through the device into the boiling water and cook the spatzln for about 2 to 3 minutes. Once they rise to the surface, fish them out of the water with the slotted spoon and place them in the bowl. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Once all the spatzln are cooked, place half the spatzln in an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle half of both cheeses onto the spatzln, then top with the remaining spatzln and cheese. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
In the meantime, fry onions over low/medium heat until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle with a little bit of salt.
When the Kasspatzln are done, remove from oven and top with onions.
Enjoy with a green salad, which makes this whole dish seem a lot healthier!!
*If you don't have any such device, you can simply place a portion of the dough on the corner of a chopping board, and, using a knife, flick off little pieces of the dough into the water.