My Space-Wasting Spätzle Maker Is My Favorite Kitchen Tool
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!