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I am ruthlessly selective when it comes to my kitchen tools. If it doesn’t fill multiple roles, or if it isn’t something I use every day, it won’t make the cut. That’s why I don’t own a stand mixer, a salad spinner, or a rice cooker (I know!). But, weirdly, half of a drawer in my modestly sized kitchen is occupied by a gadget that seems like the biggest space-wasting unitasker of them all: my spätzle maker.  

This gadget and I go way back. It was a Christmas gift from my parents after my study-abroad term in Potsdam, a city that borders Berlin. Funny enough, I didn’t eat all that much spätzle when I was there. (While you can find it on menus across the country, it’s a specialty of the Swabian region of southwestern Germany, as well as Austria, Switzerland, and parts of France.)

However, at home in the United States, spätzle became my go-to weeknight dinner. Spätzle is usually compared to pasta, but I think the small bits of boiled dough are more akin to small, dense dumplings. The ingredients are pantry and refrigerator staples: flour, eggs, salt, milk, and butter. Most importantly, thanks to my nifty spätzle maker, it’s a dish that requires less than 20 minutes of effort. I just mix up the dough, pour it into the plastic hopper, and slide the hopper back and forth across a flat metal piece with dozens of small holes. Bits of dough are squeezed into a pot of boiling water beneath, and after just a few minutes of cooking time I’m scooping out fresh spätzle with a slotted spoon.

When my husband and I traveled to southern Germany nearly a decade after my study-abroad trip, I finally got the chance to enjoy spätzle in its homeland: Topped with cheese and caramelized onions to make käsespätzle, heaped onto plates in centuries-old inns in small towns, and elegantly presented in sleek restaurants in big cities.

The spätzle that I make at home is never as good as the spätzle I devoured on that trip — my husband eats his portion with gravy made from a packet of dry mix, and I add whatever shredded cheese we happen to have in the fridge — but it’s still a comforting pile of carbs, with a fresh, bouncy texture that’s superior to anything that comes dried in a box. It reminds me of the country where I first felt capable and independent, and the wonderful trip I took there with someone I love very much.  

Sometimes, food doesn’t need to be perfect; it just needs to be close enough. So, yeah, while I won’t be making room for a salad spinner anytime soon, my spätzle maker will always have a spot in a drawer.

Do you have a spätzle maker? Tell us about it in the comments!

Stacy Brooks


Stacy Brooks is a Minneapolis-based freelance journalist focusing on food and travel. Her writing has been published in Hemispheres, Atlas Obscura, Midwest Living, and Wine Enthusiast, and she blogs at Tangled Up in Food. Stacy is also a registered Minnesota Cottage Food Producer and runs a bakery out of her kitchen.

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