Spinach-Spelt Spaetzle or Gnocchi

The amount of fresh spinach you need to have to end up with a fairly piddling amount of cooked spinach is amazing. I did use frozen spinach here, because there is still a fair bit in our freezer from last year, but I know very well that each packet of frozen spinach takes about 8 medium-packed cups of washed and trimmed spinach, having washed and trimmed it by the bushel. And also, while we have spinach in the garden and there are SOME leaves large enough to use, it needs to do a fair bit of growing yet. Goodness, this has been a slooooow spring and I am finding it harder to take than usual; wonder why?

I made this a couple of times to make sure I had the ideal quantity of flour; but the trouble is the exact quantity will depend on how moist your spinach is. A dough stiff enough to want to form a ball will give firmer spaetzle, but it will also be a lot harder to push through the spaetzle maker. The second time I made them I used the higher amount of flour, and could only get 2/3 of the dough through the spaetzle maker before my arm gave out. I made the rest of the dough into gnocchi after dinner and fried them up for breakfast. If you want gnocchi, that’s the way to do it. For spaetzle, it’s better to keep the dough softer. 

With some vegetables and cheese in moderate quantities this will be a complete meal for two. If you are serving it as a more definite side dish, with a piece of fish, poultry, or other meat, it will certainly go further.

Preparing the spinach is by far the most tedious and time-consuming part of making this dish; the actual cooking takes minutes once the water comes to a boil. Do not make the batter too far in advance of the cooking time, as it will get stiff and even harder to work.

2 to 6 servings
30 minutes to prepare spinach
15 minutes to make spaetzle

170 grams (6 ounces) cooked spinach
1/3 cup water
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
a few scrapes of nutmeg
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups whole spelt flour

Wash, trim and pick over, drain, and steam the spinach. You will need about 8 cups fresh to start, and you will end up, once it has been squeezed fairly dry and chopped, about 1/2 cup. You can certainly start with frozen spinach which has been thawed, or you could prepare your spinach in advance; keep it refrigerated until needed.

At any rate, once your spinach is cooked, squeeze as much liquid out of it as you can, chop, and measure it. Put it in blender (preferred) or food processor. Add the water, salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and process it until it is as smooth as you can get it. Scrape down the sides as needed. When it is a very smooth purée, scrape it into a mixing bowl.

I broke the egg into the blender, and whizzed it on low for about 30 seconds to help get all the spinach out and into the mixing bowl; it worked reasonably well in conjunction with a good silicone spatula. At any rate, mix the egg into the spinach. Then mix in the flour to make a smooth, pliable, if somewhat sticky dough. It should be on the stiff side of pliable, so add a bit more flour if necessary. Keep in mind if you are not cooking it right away, it will continue to stiffen slightly as it sits.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Press the batter into the boiling water using a spaetzle maker or a strainer with moderately large holes. That silicone spatula is likely to still be very handy here. Give them a gentle stir once the batter is all in, and when the little noodles float and seem firm – a matter of only a couple minutes, unless those holes were very large – drain them well.

Toss them with butter or good oil. Serve them with cheese, or vegetables such as peas tossed in with them, or with grilled or roasted meats.

Last year at this time I made Rolled Omelette with Spring Herbs & Cheese.

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