July 30, 2013

Fava Bean Kale Spaetzle

Spaetzle, also known as spätzle, are soft egg noodles or small dumplings.  To me, spaetzle is an egg noodle-dumpling hybrid.  Spaetzle is lighter and smaller than dumplings but just a bit thicker than egg noodles.  

Spaetzle literally translates from German as "little sparrow" because the noodles/dumplings looked like little sparrow bird.  It is a southern German dish typically associated with the Baden-Württemberg state in Germany (also known as Swabia).  In Germany, it is often served a side dish, like rice or potatoes, and there is usually some sort of sauce to accompany it (because gravy makes everything better).

Growing up in a family with strong German roots (my grandparents immigrated from Germany), German dishes often made a number of appearances, especially during visits from my grandparents and the holidays.  There were a lot of German dishes that I did not enjoy growing up.  But, then again, do you really see kids eating and enjoying sauerkraut?  ;)  As I have gotten older, I now enjoy more German cuisine.  One dish that I always liked was spaetzle because it just had that "comfort food" taste.

During my recent trip to Germany, I enjoyed fresh spaetzle in its native motherland at a Swabian restaurant in Stuttgart.  My trip to Germany inspired me to learn more German recipes, and today's recipe is a twist on the traditional spaetzle.

Spaetzle is something that I've never made, and I happened to be flipping through my cookbook of the Denver restaurant Mizuna when I came across a recipe for fava bean spaetzle.  I was sold. ;)  The original recipe called for cilantro, which I did not have on hand, but I thought that kale word work as a substitution.  When I served this, nobody believed that this had kale in it because it had no bitterness.  Kale can often taste bitter (depending on the type of kale), but the nutty, buttery flavor of the fava beans, eggs, and flour helped mute the bitterness of the kale.    

Making spaetzle involves pushing dough through a spaetzle maker or a colander into a pot of boiling water.  If you use a colander, like me, be patient. :)  It takes a little elbow grease to push the dough through the colander, but your efforts will pay off when you are enjoying yummy spaetzle.  You want the batter to be thick enough to rest on top of the perforated surface of the colander so that it produces a firmer texture.

When I used a colander, I did it right above the pot of boiling water so that the spaetzle just went straight into the water.  The steam from the boiling water also helped make it a little easier to push the spaetzle batter through the colander.  The spaetzle would float to the top of the boiling water when they were done cooking.  After you finish cooking the spaetzle in the boiling water, you will then sauté it with a little bit of butter.

Guten appetit!

Fava Bean Kale Spaetzle (Spätzle)
Yields 4-6 servings

2/3 cup fava beans
2 oz. kale
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp. butter
Salt and white pepper, to taste
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Place a small pot of water over high heat.  Once it reaches a boil, add the kale and blanch it for about 2 minutes.  Remove the kale, but leave the water boiling.  Immediately transfer the kale to a bowl of ice water.  Drain the kale from the ice water, and reserve the ice water.  Place the kale in a blender or food processor.  You do not need to blend the kale yet.

Now, add the fava beans to the boiling water.  Cook the fava beans for about 3 minutes.  Remove the fava beans and transfer to the bowl of ice water.  Drain the fava beans, and add them to the blender or food processor.  Add just enough water to puree, about 1/4 cup.  If you need more water, add it in tablespoon increments just to make sure the puree will not become too watery.  Set the purée aside; you can leave it in the blender or food processor bowl for now.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and nutmeg.  In another bowl, combine the fava-kale purée, eggs, and water.  Slowly add fava-kale mixture to the flour, and whisk until smooth.  Allow the mixture to rest at room temperature uncovered for 30 minutes.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and push the spaetzle mixture (about a cup at a time) through a colander into the water.  Bring the water back to a boil, and let it cook for 3 minutes.  Remove the spaetzle from the water with a slotted spoon, toss spaetzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, and spread it in an even layer on a baking sheet until ready to use.  Repeat the process until all of the batter has been used.  When ready to serve, reheat in a large sauté pan with butter, salt, and pepper.

Source: Adapted from Frank Bonanno's Mizuna cookbook, inspired by his restaurant Mizuna


  1. I really like spaetzle. I have a friend with a nifty thingo to make it. I've used my potato ricer with adequate success. This looks great.

    1. That is a good idea to use the potato ricer. Spaetzle is good stuff!

  2. This looks amazing! I can't wait to make it for my German husband (oh yes and my German self.)


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