Thursday, January 14, 2010

Comforting Noodles and Cabbage

I can’t stop eating this stuff. Okay, so I do stop, but only because I have to. Reason eventually takes over…or it’s all gone.

It’s not that pretty, but it’s simple and delicious in an Old World, comfort-food style. It’s noodles and caramelized onions and sautéed, vinegary cabbage. Then there’s the bacon. Pretty much everything is better with bacon.

I use dried spaetzle noodles in this dish. They are more convenient than making spaetzle from scratch (something I don’t even know how to do) and I think they probably hold together better. You should be able to use an Italian-style noodle, like spaghetti, if you cannot find dried spaetzle. I would suggest looking for spaghetti with a bit more coarse texture (like those shaped with old-fashioned copper dies) and breaking the noodles into about 4-inch pieces before cooking.

I’ve made this dish with all green cabbage and with a combination of green cabbage and kale, and both are very good. (I’ve included some photos of each.) It’s likely that you’ll have some cabbage left if you buy a head just to make this. Beware! That will just give you an excuse to make it again!

Spaetzle with Cabbage, Bacon and Onions Recipe
Inspired by a recipe in The Bon Appetit Cookbook
This can be made without bacon. Just cook with 2 tablespoons oil or butter instead of bacon drippings.

4 slices thick-cut bacon
4 ounces (125g) dry spaetzle
1 large yellow onion, peeled, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 ½ teaspoons (7ml) salt, divided
8 ounces (250g) thinly sliced green cabbage or 4 ounces (125g) each sliced cabbage and sliced kale (tough stems removed)
¼ cup (50ml) cider vinegar
1 teaspoon (5ml) caraway seeds
¼ teaspoon black pepper

1. Cook bacon in a large skillet (I use a nonstick skillet) over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon and set aside to cool. Pour off the rendered bacon fat, reserving 2 tablespoons (30ml) in the pan. Crumble or chop the bacon.

2. Cook the spaetzle in boiling salted water until almost completely tender. There should still be some bite to it. (It will finish cooking later when added to the rest of the ingredients.) Drain the spaetzle, reserving ¼ cup (50ml) of the cooking water.

3. Add the onions to the hot bacon fat. Add 1 teaspoon salt and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until soft and beginning to brown, stirring frequently.

4. Add the cabbage and cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the remaining ½ tsp (2.5ml) salt, vinegar, kale (if using), caraway seeds and pepper. Cook 5-8 minutes more or until the cabbage is tender.

5. Add the cooked noodles, reserved cooking water, and crumbled bacon. Cook and stir until the liquid has mostly evaporated and the noodles are heated through, about 1 minute.

Makes about 4 main dish servings.

You could also serve smaller portions as a side dish (perhaps without the bacon). It might go well with kielbasa or ham.


  1. Anne Marie - we are going to learn how to make homemade spaetzle. In a future Hands On post on Cook out of the Box. So easy. So chewy. I am going to make this tomorrow night with homemade spaetzle for my brother who is visiting from Germany. I bet he will love it.

  2. Anne Marie, this looks wonderful! I'm making it for my lunch today using Hormel's bacon crumbles (I buy these at Sam's Club or Costco and they are so handy to have on hand!), so I will use the non-bacon method and use olive oil instead of bacon drippings. It will be a little healthier but will still have the texture and flavor of bacon.