Carinthia is the southernmost Austrian state and home to a unique kind of dumpling: the Carinthian cheese noodle. It’s a vegetarian dumpling that is said to be closely related to the Italian ravioli.
While a Swabian would never ever think of pleating his soup dumplings (‘Maultaschen’), it’s the trademark of the Carinthian cheese noodle. In the past, it was unthinkable for Swabians to eat vegetarian dumplings. They were originally invented to hide the meat from god during fasting periods. Hence their old name ‘Hergottsbescheiserle’ which literally translates to ‘god-cheaters’.
The alpine cuisine of the Southern German states and Austria, however, has always been mainly vegetarian. The fancy cuts of meat were unaffordable for the country people and cattle were needed for farm work rather than steak.
What goes into the filling for Carinthian cheese noodles?
Carinthian cheese noodles are filled with a potato puree that is enriched with dry topfen (quark). It’s a specialty dairy product from Germany and Austria that might be hard for you to come by outside of Germany. Even if you’re in Germany, you might not be able to source it outside of the Southern states. That is because you need a special kind of low-moisture topfen called ‘Bröseltopfen’.
However, I don’t want to discourage you from recreating this recipe. You can use low-moisture cream cheese (‘Schichtkäse’) instead. Or, if you just have access to regular quark (20 % fat), you can wrap it in cheesecloth and leave it to drain for a few days until crumbly and very dry.
The most important seasoning for the filling are fresh mint leaves. There is a special kind of mint that grows in Carinthia that is referred to as noodle mint (‘Nudelminze’). I bet you can’t source that but you can substitute it with regular spearmint. Peppermint isn’t a proper substitute because its menthol content is too high so that it overpowers all the other flavors.
How to prepare and pleat the dumpling wrappers
The dough used for wrapping is a pretty basic noodle dough with eggs and water. Eggs were expensive so that no more than was absolutely necessary was used. You can roll it out by hand or by using a pasta machine. For these noodles, I prefer to roll out the dough by hand. I don’t have a special mold to cut out the dumplings so that I use a coffee cup for this task.
You can pleat your dumplings however you like. Mine always end up looking a bit more like from a Chinese restaurant than from a Carinthian housewife but in my defense, I’m not from Carinthia. If you don’t bother about appearance, you can also leave them unpleated. You probably won’t need to produce pretty pictures for a food blog after cooking.
Carinthian cheese noodles are usually not pan-seared. You can eat them right after blanching drizzled with some brown butter. I know my brown butter on the pictures is pretty pale in color. You can certainly make it darker if you prefer. It’s best to eat this rich dish with a tangy green salad on the side.
You can easily half or double the recipe in case you want to produce more or fewer dumplings. They freeze beautifully when still raw. It’s worth making a big batch if you have some time on hand. That way you always have a quick dinner on hand.
a few small mint or chervil leaves, for garnishing
Prepare the noodle dough:
In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients for the dough and knead until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest for at least 30 minutes before rolling it out.
Cook the potatoes:
Place your potatoes in a large pot. Cover with cold water and season liberally with salt. Bring the water up to a boil. Cover the pot and cook the potatoes skin-on for about 20 minutes or until tender. The potatoes are done once they easily slide off when pierced with a sharp paring knife. Drain the potatoes and peel using a sharp paring knife while still hot. Press the warm potatoes through your potato ricer or pass them through a tamis to get a smooth puree.
Prepare the filling:
Heat the butter in a small nonstick saute pan over medium heat and add the leek and garlic. Sweat for 3-4 minutes, then add the mint and marjoram. Remove the pan from the heat and in a large mixing bowl, add the aromatics to the low-moisture topfen along with the egg and flour. Add the topfen-mixture to the potato puree and mix briefly. Season the filling to taste with nutmeg, black pepper, and salt.
Generously flour your hands and divide the dough into 30 evenly sized small balls, each about the size of a walnut.
Roll out the dough and assemble your dumplings:
Generously flour a large working surface and roll out your dough using a rolling pin. You need to roll it out thin enough so that you can cut out 30 dumpling wrappers, each about 3.5 inches (9 cm) in diameter. I used a coffee cup with a diameter of 3.5 inches to cut out my dumpling skins. Make sure to dust the dumpling wrappers lightly with flour so that they won’t stick to each other.
Take one ball of your filling and place it in the center of a dumpling wrapper. Seal the wrapper by folding it into a half-moon shape. You can additionally pleat the edge for a better look. Continue to wrap your dumplings until all the batter and skins are used up.
Cook and serve your dumplings:
Heat a large pot of lightly salted water until it is lightly simmering. Drop your dumplings into the water and cook them until they float on top, about 2-3 minutes. Drain them and divide among individual serving plates.
Heat the butter in a small pot over medium-high heat. Leave the butter on the heat until it turns hazelnut brown. Instantly remove it from the heat and use it to drizzle your dumplings generously. Garnish the dumplings with a few small mint or chervil leaves and serve while still hot.
Hi! I'm Tim, a food lover from Germany. On my blog, I share Southern German recipes, the traditional way and with my own little twists. I'm aware that German cuisine is neither trendy nor world-renowned for culinary finesse. But I'd like to prove to you that there's nothing quite as comforting as a creamy bowl of potato soup or some piping hot cheese spätzle right out of the oven.