I was working in the test kitchen at Gourmet, on the hunt for an alternative to the usual starches, when I cooked spaetzle for the first time. It struck me right away that this homemade, irregularly shaped German pasta was so delicious and easy to make that I should add it to my home recipe repertoire. Sure enough, spaetzle was a hit at home and quickly became one of Sammy's all-time favorite foods, the once dish -- along with matzo ball soup -- that he invariably requests whenever I'm making a special holiday meal for the four of us at home. (If you have the right gadget, you can have a fragrant, steaming batch of spaetzle about 10 minutes after you put on a pot of water to boil.)
But, as with any kind of pasta, spaetzle really requires some gravy or sauce -- or some butter at the least -- to complete it. So if I'm serving it as a side dish, I make sure we have a saucy meat or chicken as the main dish. You can boil it, drain it, toss it with butter and herbs, and serve it. Or you can make it ahead of time, even by as much as a day or two. Just boil and drain it, rinse it, and put it in a resealable plastic bag. When it's time to sit down to dinner, saute it in a hot pan until it's crispy, season it and serve. (Sam loves his spaetzle crispy.)
Combine the flour, salt, and nutmeg in a large bowl and stir well. Whisk together the eggs and 2/3 cup water and add to the flour mixture, beating until just smooth. The texture should be the consistency of thick pancake batter. If too thick, whisk in 2 to 3 tablespoons more water.
Drop the mixture through a spaetzle maker or colander into a large pot of salted boiling water. Simmer until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water. (Spaetzle may be made a day in advance. Keep covered and chilled.)
Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet over high heat until hot. Add the spaetzle and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned and heated through, about 5 minutes. Add the chives and season with salt and pepper.
Recipe courtesy Sara Moulton, Sara Moulton Cooks at Home, Broadway Books, 2002