Maultaschen are a southern German variation on ravioli and are typically filled with meat, spinach, and parsley. They’re a Swabian classic, and apart from the equally delicious spaetzle (egg noodles), they’re probably the region’s most popular pasta. I learned to make this dish from a great man and a true master of Maultaschen, my Swabian stepfather, Uli. According to Uli, there are two traditional ways to serve Maultaschen, either in a bowl of steaming broth or fried in butter with juicy sweet onions, which is how leftovers are usually enjoyed.
Maultaschen are bigger than their Italian relatives, and according to Uli, the pasta should be thin and the filling generous. My version pairs beef, bacon, and sausage with tons of spinach and parsley to keep the Maultaschen light and green.
FOR THE PASTA DOUGH
- 2 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt
- 3 eggs
FOR THE FILLING
- 1 medium stale white bun or roll
- 10 ounces regular spinach leaves
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut into very small cubes
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 2 cups flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
- 9 ounces ground meat (beef or a mixture)
- 5 ounces coarse sausage, casings removed
- 2 tablespoons sour cream
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg preferably freshly grated
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- A generous amount ground pepper
- 6 1/2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 onions cut in half and thinly sliced
- 1 small bunch chives snipped
- For the pasta dough, mix the ingredients together with the dough hooks of an electric mixer for 3 to 4 minutes or until well combined. Continue kneading with your hands for about 5 minutes or until smooth. Form the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1½ hours.
- For the filling, soak the bun in warm water for 15 minutes, then squeeze out the excess water and tear it into chunks.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and blanch the spinach for 1½ minutes. Drain and quickly rinse with cold water. Let the spinach cool for a few minutes, then squeeze out the excess water and finely chop the leaves. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
- In a medium, heavy pan, heat a small splash of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook for a few minutes or until crispy. Add the onion and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes or until soft and golden.
- Add the bacon-onion mixture and the chunks of wet bread to the bowl of spinach, along with the parsley, ground meat, sausage, and sour cream. Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper and mix with your hands until well combined. Cover the bowl and refrigerate while you roll out the pasta dough.
- On a large table or countertop, arrange the pasta dough between 2 large sheets of plastic wrap. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough into a thin 8 x 35-inch (20 x 90 cm) rectangle. Be patient: This can take about 20 minutes. Alternatively, use a pasta machine.
- It’s easier to finish the Maultaschen if the dough is on parchment paper instead of plastic wrap. Pull the top layer of plastic wrap off the dough and arrange a large sheet of parchment in its place. Carefully flip the sheet of pasta over, so that the parchment is on the bottom; pull off the plastic wrap that’s on top.
- Spread the filling evenly on top of the dough, leaving a ½-inch (1.25 cm) border all the way around. Use the parchment to gently roll one of the long sides up and over until the edge extends just past the middle. Gently pull the parchment away from the rolled up dough. Repeat on the other side, letting the edges of the pasta overlap generously in the middle and pulling the parchment away from the second side. Use your fingers to gently push the dough together and seal the fold. Arrange a new sheet of parchment next to the pasta roll and quickly flip the roll over and onto the clean parchment, so that the fold is on the bottom. With a sharp knife, carefully cut the pasta roll into 18 Maultaschen.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (or 2 to 3 pots if you want to cook all the Maultaschen at the same time). Depending on the size of the pot, work in batches of about 6 and slip the Maultaschen into the boiling water. Cover the pot and immediately remove it from the heat. After about 12 minutes or when the Maultaschen rise to the surface, use a slotted spoon or ladle to transfer them to a rack. Repeat with the remaining Maultaschen.
- While the Maultaschen cook, bring the broth in a medium saucepan to a boil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Take the saucepan off the heat, cover, and keep warm.
- For the topping, in a medium skillet, heat the butter and a splash of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for 10 minutes or until soft and golden brown.
- Serve the Maultaschen in bowls filled with a ladle of hot broth and garnished with the onions and chives.