It’s Ocktoberfest, so break out your lederhosen and let me tell you the not so grim tale of Spaeztle and Gretel. We all know how it almost ended for Gretel and her brother Hanzel, narrowly escaping the witch’s oven in the woods. Seldom told, however, is the story of what happened to Gretel after that scary day. You see, she went on to finish high school, and then like so many pretty blonde girls, she went on a semester abroad to Florence, where she wanted to study art and feel appreciated. There, she encountered all sorts of Italian delights, including pasta. She also met Spaetzle, a charming lad who hailed from Trentino-Alto Adige, or Sud Tyrol, the very northern province in Italy where German cultural influence and surnames are everywhere. Of course, Spaeztle was more German than Italian, but he was Italian enough for her to abandon her homeland and settle down in Alto Adige, where they lived happily ever after.
Spaeztle is a type of pasta, more like a gnocchi, served in Southern Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy. In Italy, sauces with speck, prosciutto, cream and Parmigiano are more common, especially during the chilly months. The moral of the story, of course, is that Italian cuisine is heavily influenced by local geography. And that Italian charm is hard to resist…
p.s. Check out our wine pairings to complement this dish.
Cook the spinach in boiling water (or by steaming it) and press dry. In a food processor, mix the spinach, egg, salt, and nutmeg until creamy. Remove to a mixing bowl, and fold in the flour until a dough is formed. Place the dough into a pastry bag and squeeze out 1-2 inch pieces. (Alternatively, you can spread the dough out and cut into small strips.) Lightly cover in flour so they do not stick together.
In a large skillet, heat the butter and add the onion over medium heat. When golden brown, add the speck. After about 2 minutes, add the wine and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add the cream and cook for about 5 minutes, or until reduced by half.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Carefully drop in the spaetzle and cook for about 3 minutes, or until they float to the surface. Drain and add to the cream mixture. Mix together and serve with a sprinkle of Parmigiano.