If you’ve ever wondered why “dumpling” was a term of endearment (like, wait, aren’t dumplings chubby little meat pies?), you may not have had spaetzle.

Spaetzle (or spätzle) are delicious pasta dumplings popular in southern Germany, Switzerland, and Hungary. The German word means “little sparrows,” a reference to their shape.

Spaetzle dough is a simple one, a blending of eggs, milk, and flour, usually pushed through the holes of a colander into boiling salted water. (If you make it often, you can even invest in a spaetzle maker, or hopper.) But though spaetzle might sound kinda basic, it’s a blank canvas for all sorts of delightful flavor variations.

Get creative with any of these nine special spaetzle.

Spaetzle are a sturdy addition to soups — or try them crisped up with a bit of butter and served with sausage. Here, the addition of Gruyère cheese gives these versatile little dumplings extra richness.

Get our cheese spaetzle recipe.

Mixed fresh herbs upgrade just about any savory food, and spaetzle is no exception! We’re imagining this herby version as the base for meatballs or a creamy Alfredo sauce.

Get our herb spaetzle recipe.

Frozen peas are blended up with the liquid (water and eggs) in this recipe, then incorporated with the flour. Getting the wet dough to the colander can be tricky, but the results are worth it. Smoked salmon adds protein for a one-dish, one-fish meal.

Get the green pea spaetzle with smoked salmon sauce recipe.

Say “portobello paprikash” three times fast. (Just kidding — saying “spaetzle” is hard enough.) This vegetarian dinner uses meaty portobellos to create a sturdy, creamy sauce that tops nutmeg-infused dumplings. We have a feeling you won’t miss the meat.

Get the portobello paprikash with spaetzle recipe.

Want the authentic German spaetzle experience? Look no further than this quintessential recipe. Four ingredients is all it takes to achieve Old World authenticity.

Get the homemade German spaetzle recipe.

Sure, spaetzle starts with flour and eggs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add novel ingredients — like sweet potatoes!

This intriguing recipe incorporates mashed sweet taters for extra color, flavor, and nutrients, then tops the mixture with a healthy kale pesto. Save leftover sweet potatoes to get a jump on this one on a weeknight.

Get the sweet potato spaetzle with kale pesto recipe.

The name might give you a double-take, as this is such an eclectic recipe. The flavors, though, blend earthy, bitter, spicy and sweet — the perfect complex topping for fresh spaetzle.

Get the spaetzle, wild mushrooms, and broccoli rabe with Thai yellow curry sauce recipe.

These light, zippy, springlike spaetzle take a dip in browned butter and emerge with lots of deep, nutty flavor. Meanwhile, the ricotta in the spaetzle batter keeps things airy and delicate.

Get the lemon, ricotta, and thyme spaetzle recipe.

German food may be known for being meat-heavy, but some traditional dishes are actually plant-based! This recipe subs the usual sausages or chops for a veggie-rich lentil stew that’s almost like a German curry. Try black lentils for this one — they’ll hold their shape better than green or brown.

Get the German lentils with spaetzle recipe.