This is the time of year when a simmering pot of fragrant stew redolent with spices and red wine or a looser and more liquid soup smelling of onions and garlic is just the thing to warm bones cold from just the shortest, bravest time spent outside.

Two of the three soups offered here today include handmade noodles of one sort or another. The first may be more familiar to you, as it involves the simplest method of pasta making: using a rolling pin and a pizza cutter or knife to shape handkerchiefs that will become little delights upon your soup spoon.

The second pasta may be less familiar, but no less delicious. Spaetzle is a loose, wrinkly noodle popular in German and Hungarian dishes. Once you’ve conquered the juggling act of getting the dough into the boiling water, you’ll find it’s much simpler than making Italian-style pasta and just as rewarding.

Spaetzle makers are one of those single-purpose kitchen tools that, when you have one, makes the activity for which the tool was designed so much easier. I’ve seen two kinds, one made for large-scale use and the other more home-kitchen friendly. The latter looks like a flat grater and contains a carriage which holds the dough and is moved back and forth over the holes, pressing the dough through the holes.

While the specific tools are helpful, they aren’t necessary to make spaetzle, just interesting to know about. I explain below how to make spaetzle with tools you probably already have at home. No need to buy yet another single-purpose tool before you can enjoy this easy-to-make traditional specialty.

 

SPICY HANDKERCHIEF PASTA AND SAUSAGE SOUP

Crushing seeds is easily done by a few pulses in a spice grinder. Alternately, you can crush fennel seeds by using the bottom of a skillet to press them into a cutting board.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound pork sausage

4 cups minced fennel bulb (1 large bulb)

2 cups minced onion (1 large onion)

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon fennel seeds, crushed

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary, about 2 stalks

1 cup white wine

8 cups chicken stock

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

Heat a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and the pork sausage and saute until it begins to brown, using a wooden spoon to break it up occasionally. While the pork is browning, make the pasta dough by following the directions below.

Add the fennel, onion, salt, fennel seed, red pepper flakes and rosemary. Saute until the fennel and onions are soft and translucent. Add the white wine and reduce by half. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the parsley and pasta (see below), and cook until the pasta squares rise to the surface.

PASTA:

1 cup flour

1 egg

4 tablespoons (or so) of water, adding 1 tablespoon at a time

2 pinches of salt

With either a dough hook or by hand, mix all of the ingredients together, adding the water 1 tablespoon at a time as needed. Knead for 5 minutes with a dough hook or 10 minutes by hand. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest while you make the remainder of the soup. After you add the chicken stock to the soup, roll out the pasta dough to 1/8-inch thick and use either a pizza cutter, pastry roller or a knife to cut it into 1-inch squares. Add to the stock pot when the soup has come to a boil.

Serves four to six generously.

 

CHORIZO, RICE AND SAFFRON SOUP

This soup is the easiest of the three soups, as rice is its simple and easy carbohydrate.

Turmeric can be a substitute for the more expensive saffron as far as color, but doesn’t come close in fragrance or flavor. Your budget will probably be the deciding factor here — splurge or no splurge.

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups peeled and diced carrots, 1 to 2 carrots

2 cups peeled and diced onions, 2 medium onions

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 pound chorizo sausage, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1 to 2 cloves

1/2 cup jasmine rice

2 pinches of saffron (or 1 teaspoon of tumeric)

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 cups chopped and cleaned escarole

6 cups chicken stock

Heat the oil in a medium stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, onions, salt and pepper and saute for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Add the chorizo, jalapeno pepper and garlic, and saute for another 5 to 10 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer for 30 to 40 minutes.

Serves four to six.

 

KIELBASA, SPINACH AND SPAETZLE SOUP

The base of this soup is warming, satisfying and delicious with or without the spinach or spaetzle. If you make the soup ahead of time, hold off on the spinach and spaetzle until you are ready to serve. Cooling and reheating will overcook both.

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups diced onions (about 1 large onion)

2 cups peeled and diced carrots (about 1 carrot)

1 pound kielbasa, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 tablespoons minced garlic (about 2 cloves)

1/2 teaspoon salt

Several grinds of fresh black pepper

1 cup white wine

28 ounces diced tomatoes

4 cups chicken broth

1 pound spinach, washed, drained and coarsely chopped

2 cups spaetzle

INGREDIENTS FOR SPAETZLE:

1 cup flour

1 egg

1/4 teaspoon salt

A few grinds of fresh white pepper

Several swipes of nutmeg on the grater

1/2 cup water

SOUP: In a large stockpot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and carrots and saute for 8 to 10 minutes or until the onions are translucent and the carrots soft. Add the kielbasa, garlic, salt and pepper, and saute for another 5 minutes. Add the wine, tomatoes and broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the spaetzle dough. Add spaetzle to the pot and stir. Let rise to the top and then add spinach. (If you add the spinach too early, either it or the spaetzle will cook too long.)

SPAETZLE: Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, mix all ingredients with a mixer. Beat for 1 minute. It should be the consistency of pancake batter or a little thicker. Over boiling water, use a spaetzle maker or a strainer with big holes to press the dough through the holes into the water. Use a plastic bench scraper or a spatula to press the dough through the holes.

Alternately, pour the dough onto a cutting board, tilt the cutting board slightly, and with a knife, cut off ribbons of the dough into the water. When all the dough is pressed through, stir the water well. When all the noodles have risen to the surface, strain just as you would pasta.

Makes 2 cups spaetzle.

Serves four to six.

 

Anne Mahle of Rockland is the author of “At Home, At Sea,” a recipe book about her experiences cooking aboard the family’s windjammer. She can be reached at: [email protected]