This Vegetarian Spaetzle Meal Is Fast, Cozy, and Feel-Good

You’re only 45 minutes away from a gorgeous, meat-free main course.

We're always down for a fast, flavorful meal. And when it happens to be pretty, that's just an added bonus. On this week's episode of Mad Genius, Food & Wine Culinary Director-at-Large Justin Chapple shares his recipe for Buttery Spaetzle with Roasted Cauliflower and Shallots, a 45-minute, vegetarian main course that gets striking color from roasted purple cauliflower and shallots. Smoked paprika adds even more color and flavor, as does a bright white dollop of sour cream and green fresh dill at the very end. The end result is a veritable rainbow on a plate that tastes just as good as it looks.

Read on for Justin's method and follow along with the video above so you can make it at home.

Prep the Vegetables

This recipe calls for purple cauliflower and shallots, although you can substitute in regular cauliflower and red onion, respectively. Justin demonstrates how to cut the whole cauliflower into one-inch florets, and makes quick work thinly slicing the shallots, too. Those sliced shallots and florets then go on a large rimmed baking sheet with some extra-virgin olive oil, kosher salt, smoked paprika, and black pepper, all tossed together so every bite is seasoned. Spread everything out in a single layer and let the mixture roast for 30 to 35 minutes at 425°F. Ultimately, the cauliflower should be tender and browned in some spots.

Cook the Spaetzle

While the cauliflower mixture roasts, cook your spaetzle—Justin uses purchased dried spaetzle to save time—in a pot of salted boiling water, following the package directions to cook it to al dente. When it's done and you're ready to drain it, don't forget to reserve half a cup of the cooking liquid for your sauce.

Brown the Butter and Bring It All Together

Next, wipe the pot you used to cook the spaetzle dry and add the unsalted butter. Let it lightly brown over medium, and then add the cauliflower mixture, spaetzle, and reserved cooking liquid to the pot. Toss everything together (gently!) so the brown butter coats the spaetzle evenly.

Buttery Spaetzle with Roasted Cauliflower and Shallots
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

It's Spaetzle Time

At this point, take the pot off the heat and add in the lemon juice and zest. Taste the spaetzle for seasoning and add more salt and black pepper as needed. Then, plate the dish and top each portion with a dollop of sour cream, some dill sprigs, and crushed red pepper for heat. Take a cue from Justin and grate on a little more lemon zest as well, if you'd like. Then? Grab a fork and give it a try.

"That cauliflower gets a double whammy of smokiness, both from the roasting and that smoked sweet paprika," Justin says. "And these shallots; oh my gosh, they melt in your mouth. But of course, my favorite thing about this entire dish is that springy, chewy, and just a little bit crispy spaetzle that just teams up so nicely with that nutty browned butter. I love this recipe. It's homey, it's cozy, it's pretty, and it's pretty easy, too."

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