It is frequently said and written that Knödel, especially Semmelknödel, have their origins in Bohemia and began their triumphal march through Viennese cuisine. That is not true, however, as Knödel [dumplings] are a typical dish from the Alps, also according to some archaeological excavations. Pieces of meat or fruit were coated with dough, or finely cut meat or dough were rounded into ball-shaped clumps. They were simple to prepare, divide into portions and eat.
The oldest known image of Knödel can be found in South Tyrol. We are referring to the twelfth-century fresco of the 'Knödelesserin' or 'dumpling eater' in the Hocheppan castle chapel. The word 'Knödel' or 'Knötlein' first appeared in the 15th century and referred to flour dumplings.
The earliest recipe for 'Fastenknödel' or 'Lenten dumplings' can be found in a Tyrolean cook book from the 15th century. 'Semmelknödel' are so closely associated with Vienna because the typical round bread rolls known as 'Semmel', were very popular in Vienna. They were very expensive, however, and when they became too hard to eat, they were used to make Knödel.
The most traditional type of Knödel in South Tyrol is definitely the Speckknödel. The preparation is similar to that of Semmelknödel using dry, diced Semmel (known as Knödelbrot), with lightly sautéed onion, and mixed to a dough with butter, flour, milk and eggs. Finely chopped parsley is then added and finely diced Speck, lightly browned if wished. Seasoning is added before forming the dough into Knödel, which are then cooked in boiling water. The dumplings are typically served with Sauerkraut or salad. They can also be cooked and served in broth as a classic Knödelsuppe.
The variety of Knödel is almost unlimited. Instead of Speck, they are also prepared with cheese, spinach, herbs etc. and Knödel are also made from polenta, potato or other types of dough, without mentioning the sweet variants. Anyone who would like to taste the full variety of different Knödel should visit the traditional Sterzinger Knödelfest / Sagra dei Canederli 2019, or 'dumpling festival' of Vipiteno. In the historic town centre, a long table is set up and laden with countless variants for the guests to try.
The next Knödelfest will take place on Sunday, 8 September 2019.
If you miss this event, no problem, as superb Knödel dishes are conjured up in Hotel Plunhof all year round.