Knoephla are chewy little German dumplings that are super popular in this region, as much of it was settled by German immigrants. Most commonly, knoephla are found in a creamy potato soup, but they also make a great addition to hotdish! This one builds on the German theme with mustard, sauerkraut (which cuts the richness of an otherwise very hearty dish), and a crunchy pretzel topping!
For the knoephla: Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a large bowl. Whisk to combine. Mix the egg with 1 cup water in a small bowl and add to the dry ingredients. Add the parsley to the mixture. Mix all together and knead until the dough has come together, taking care not to overmix.
Place the dough on a floured surface. Roll out to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch squares.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the knoephla in 3 or 4 batches, depending on the size of your pot, until cooked through, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon or spider and add to a large bowl. Toss with the olive oil to prevent the dumplings from sticking and set aside.
For the hotdish: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish.
In a skillet over medium heat, add the sausage and cook until browned and cooked through. Remove the cooked sausage from the skillet and add to the bowl with the knoephla.
In the same skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the red onion and cook until softened. Add the sauerkraut and cook until the mixture has caramelized. Add toasted fennel seeds, salt and pepper. Cook for another minute, then remove the mixture to the bowl with knoephla and sausage.
In the same skillet, add the butter and flour and whisk together, stirring up any brown bits at the bottom of the skillet. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the milk in four additions, whisking continuously, allowing the mixture to thicken before adding each addition. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Add the knoephla, sausage, onion and kraut mixture to the pot of gravy and mix until combined. Pour into the greased baking dish.
Place the pretzels in a zip-top bag and crush with a rolling pin. Add the remaining tablespoon olive oil to the bag and shake up to coat the pretzels. Top the baking dish with the pretzel crumbs. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
Garnish with the parsley before serving.
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