I first ate spätzle in Austria, at 7 Stern Brau. There, I decided two things: I would cook it when I got home, and I would accept the anglicised spelling “spaetzle”. It’s just less fiddly to type. Sorry Austria.

Spätzle with roasted vegetables and merguez sausages

Anyway, kaese spaetzle is the classic – little baked noodle thingies slavered with melted cheese and bacon, crispy fried onions scattered over the top. It’s bliss. Both as comfort food and a path to coronary heart disease, it shits all over macaroni cheese.

But with that (and a recent light-hearted ticking off for the amount of cheese I eat) ringing in my ears, I thought I’d try something lighter. Spaetzle will slot into a good majority of the recipes I’ve seen for gnocchi or pasta. So why not a light fresh tomato sauce?

Well, because I’ve a short but sticky history of fucking up spaetzle, that’s why.

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Aubergine and Merguez sausage pasta

On Thursday night, feeling lazy, I  shoved a bunch of tomatoes in the oven with some onions and a few cloves of garlic, roasted it, and dumped it over pasta. It worked broadly, but didn’t quite cohere. The presentation was pleasingly caricature-rustic, and the roasted garlic flavour gave the whole thing a rich backbone. There was a faint smokiness from the slightly-singed tomato skins, the garlic, and the onions (which also retained some crunch). But it wasn’t there yet.

The obvious thing to add would probably be peppers. Courgettes would work, too. Throw it all in the oven, maybe add some wine at the end and mush up the tomatoes a bit. But again, that doesn’t feel quite right to me.

So here’s the plan: switch out the pappardelle for orecchiette, I was just using up leftovers anyway. That changes the texture breakdown, and opens up different structures of sauce, and size and shape of ingredients. Keep the roasted tomatoes, garlic, and onion pieces – the garlic can be peeled and fine-chopped back into the sauce at the end. Go with the wine to let it out a bit. To make it richer and more substantial, throw in baby aubergines and Merguez sausages. I’m keeping an open mind on the peppers. I’ll see what I impulse buy at Al-Amin.

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