Photo by Andrea Wyner
Photos by Andrea Wyner
The delicacy may have been born in a monastery—but it’s far from chaste.
The name maultaschen is distinctive enough. It can translate as “mouth bags” or “feedbags.” But there’s an even more striking nickname for these ravioli-like pouches stuffed with minced and smoked meats, mushrooms, onions, parsley, and breadcrumbs. In the Swabian region of southern Germany, they’re called herrgottbescheisserle, which means, roughly, “things you want to hide from Mister God.”
Legend has it that maultaschen originated at the Maulbronn Monastery, about 28 miles northwest of Stuttgart, in the 13th century. During Lent, when the monks were supposed to abstain from meat, they folded bits of ground pork and beef in with their vegetables and herbs and hid the mixture inside palm-size pasta dumplings. The reasoning: God couldn’t see the meat and punish them for breaking their fast.
Today, while still a staple of Lenten dinners, maultaschen are eaten year-round, and since the 1980s, they have enjoyed a culinary renaissance in southern Germany. You can find them on nearly every restaurant menu in the region. Inside the Hotel Am Schloss, in the tiny university town of Tübingen, the second-generation chef Herbert Rösch makes maultaschen the centerpiece of the seasonally changing menu at his Restaurant Mauganeschtle (Hidden Place). The traditional version, which Rösch offers throughout the year, features a filling of hackfleisch (ground beef and pork), mixed with breadcrumbs, eggs, and herbs. The dumplings are served in a shallow bath of bouillon and topped with flecks of parsley.
Rösch’s father compiled a maultaschen cookbook, Schwäbisches Maultaschenbüchle, which includes more than two dozen recipes, both conventional and unusual (with green pepper–cognac sauce). Rösch follows that example by preparing different variations of maultaschen every few months.
He riffs on what he calls “ideas of a season” to create his specials. “We use asparagus in March, trout during the summer, and porcini and chanterelle mushrooms in the fall,” he says. “Christmas is traditionally the time to eat goose. So, a couple of years ago in December, we came up with the idea of making a filling with minced goose breast.”
In the late summer, after baking the doughy rectangles, filled with mushrooms and a mild, local white cheese, Rösch might brown them in butter until the pasta is slightly crisp. He finishes the presentation with chunky basil pesto and fresh mâche salad from the hotel’s garden. When you cut into one of these maultaschen, the melted cheese wraps around your fork like spaghetti and pulls the mushrooms along. The chef says his personal favorite is truffled veal maultaschen, in which he uses veal paté for the stuffing and dresses the dumplings with fresh truffle shavings or truffle oil.
In another example of south German wordplay, maultasche is sometimes translated as “a smack in the face”; the puffy pocket’s shape is like that of a swollen cheek. But when you’re stuffing your cheeks with these dumplings and sipping a glass of fresh-pressed local pear juice on Mauganeschtle’s terrace overlooking the Neckar River, it’s hard to imagine God is too upset with these “little cheaters,” having let them survive all these years.
(SERVES 2 to 4)
Based on a recipe by Herbert Rösch
This article originally appeared online in October 2013; it was updated in December 2017 to include current information.
Sign up for the Daily Wander newsletter for expert travel inspiration and tips
Please enter a valid email address.
more from afar
Frank Lloyd Wright Homes, Farm Stays, Glamping Sites—Airbnb’s New Search Categories Feature These Cool Listings