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.
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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.