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[Photo: Spaetzlemaker.net]

The very first gadget post I wrote for Serious Eats was about my aebelskiver pan—a cool Danish tool for stuffed pancakes that I hold quite dear to my heart, one that I felt captured the way food and culture are intimately intertwined. It was with that in mind that I decided to buy myself a spaetzle maker.

If you're not familiar with the German staple, most people would describe spaetzle as tiny egg dumplings, but I like to think of spaetzle more like a fluffier orzo. Either way, it's delicious, and simpler to make than pasta. The versatility of spaetzle is just as broad—prepare it with herbs and butter or create heartier sauces for a stand-alone meal. Dressed simply alongside schnitzel, it's a Eurotrip on a plate.

It works like this: with a little lip on the edge, the spaetzle maker nestles itself easily over a pot of boiling water. Once your batter is ready (it's liquidy, and can be made with a recipe like this one), you pour it into the sliding box onto of the grater-like base. Slide it from side to side, and the little droplets slip through the holes and drip into the boiling water. Moments later, they're floating at the top, ready for eating. Unlike a plain grater, the holes on this specialized tool have an elongated edge, which enables the batter to cling and stretch into just the right shape.

Here's the catch: you can't make spaetzle without its namesake tool, and the spaetzle maker doesn't exactly do anything else. The good news? Models don't differ much from brand to brand, and the generic $6 one I bought at my local kitchenwares store has served me perfectly thus far (a similar option is available atBed Bath and Beyond for only a buck more). With a pricetag that low, the only reason not to have one would be space (and if I can still find space for mine in a tiny Manhattan kitchen, it's not much of an excuse).

Cultural appeal aside, it's a cheap and quick option for those who want to make pasta but aren't ready for the challenge, or who might not be ready to spend a little more on the tools that make pasta dough a simpler conquest.

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