Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium heat. Melt the 4 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet and reserve.
Brush the interior of a large bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and set aside.
Whisk the flour and salt and pepper, to taste, together in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and water well and fold in the ricotta and thyme. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour and whisk well until smooth. The batter should be the consistency of a thick pancake batter; add more water, if necessary.
In batches, with a large rubber spatula, hold a colander with medium holes over the boiling water and push the batter through the holes into the water. Cook each batch until they all float, about 1 minute. Using a large strainer or slotted spoon, lift them out of the water, shake off the excess water, and drop them into the buttered bowl. Continue cooking spaetzle, tossing in the buttered bowl to keep them from sticking.
Bring the skillet with the melted butter to a simmer over medium heat and cook until the butter begins to brown a bit. (The milk solids will turn golden brown in the bottom of the skillet.) Add the spaetzle and toss well to coat in the browned butter. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately.
Recipe courtesy of Claire Robinson