Spaetzle is a very German dish most commonly associated with the region of Swabia (Schwaben). It's basically fresh homemade eggnoodles, and nothing store-bought compares to the REAL THING. It's not difficult, but it is a bit messy (be forewarned, ye neat-freaks out there!), and you gotta work fast.
The Swabians are a hardworking & precise people. To give you a taste, here's an anecdote my mother told me from when she was a young mom living in a small village near Stuttgart. A neighbor informed her that it was very obvious to the townspeople that my mom was not Swabian. "How's that?" she asked. "We don't see you airing out your featherbeds (down comforters) out your window or balcony. Every good Swabian housewife airs her family's bedding every morning!" So my mom promptly started airing out the comforters every morning. But soon she was pulled aside by the nosy neighbor again. "Just so you know, a good Swabian housewife has all the beds made before the church bells ring at noon!"
There are two schools of thought on how to make the perfect Spaetzle: Swabians insist the dough be prepared at 8 o'clock in the morning, and every time the cook passes it, she stirs it for 5 minutes, so that when she gets ready to cook the noon meal, the dough will produce perfect Spaetzle. On the other hand, the Austrian approach is more to my liking: "The lazier the cook, the better the Spaetzle!" If you can still distinguish some of the flour and eggs in the dough, they say, then you're making Spaetzle right.
I'll just list the basic recipe here, but for a detailed description of the process, go to Amiexpat's blog -- she has an ongoing weekly challenge of the "Real German Cuisine", and this week it was Spaetzle. Another handy website is germanfood.about.com
Basic Homemade Spaetzle
4 c flour (calculate about 1 c flour per person)
1/2 to 3/4 cup water or milk
Mix ingredients well (I use a mixer). Amount of moisture needed depends on which method you use -- if pressing dough through holes, batter needs to be similar to a pancake batter, just a little stiffer. Have a large pot of salted water boiling. Add Spatzle by one of 3 methods:
1. spread dough (sticky, not too watery) thinly over wet cutting board, and cut noodles with knife. This is probably the most difficult method to master!
2. press batter through holes of a colander (large holes work best).
3. Use a Spaetzle-press or "Reibe". Here's a picture of what mine looks like: you push the dough back and forth over the holes directly into the boiling water.
Don't cook Spaetzle too long -- you'll want to take them out with a slotted spoon shortly after they've risen to the top. If you don't use them immediately, stir in some butter to keep Spaetzle from sticking together -- they will make 1 big lump otherwise!
You can serve Spaetzle with anything that calls for egg noodles. They're good with goulash or other sauces, can be used in soups, and are great tossed with pesto.
Cheesey Spaetzle Casserole
butter or oil
Swiss Cheese (Emmentaler), grated
1. Saute onion rings to golden grown. Have the oven pre-heating.
2. Layer a (buttered or oiled as needed) casserole with layers of freshly made Spaetzle, cheese and onions.
3. Bake at 400 F for 5-10 minutes until bubbly. Add more cheese and freshly grated pepper as desired.