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Jan 15, 2007 08:12 PM

Marcella Hazan's pasta making method -- I need help!

I'm a huge fan of Marcella, but have never made fresh pasta, so I figured I'd go with whatever Marcella tells me to do, which usually comes out perfect.

I read the instructions in the "Classic", "More Classic" and Cucina. They are pretty close to the same method with different ways of trying to explain it.

Where I'm getting stuck is rolling it out thin enough. I just can't get it to keep thinning. I made a rolling pin as she described, a 1.5" by 32" dowel. That whole "hand waving" over the rolling pin thing that she describes is just not working for me.

Can anyone offer any help on her method or alternate methods?


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  1. It really is difficult to do by hand unless you have had a lot of practice. I used to do it but about 30 years ago I bought a manual pasta machine and never went back to hand rolling. It also helps with the kneading too. I mix up my dough in the food processor and then start rolling the dough at the widest setting and rerolling setting the rollers closer and close together. At first it will look like rags but with repeated passes through the rollers it will become smooth and plaible.

    The machines are not expensive, Amazon has one from Villa Ware for under $20.00, I just looked.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Candy

      I agree, I think it's one of those things that takes years and years of practice... when I took a cooking class from one of Lidia's chefs here in KC, he said that the women in Italy that make pasta by hand every day had forearms the size of his thigh... practice and brute strength, it would appear!

      1. re: Katie Nell

        I'm sure you're right, though it seems kind of sad. I think there must be a great pleasure out of getting it to work totally by hand. But I sure was exhausted after, and having some inedible mess as a result didn't help either.

        I don't mind paying a bit more for a machine if it makes a real difference. Can anyone recommend a pasta machine? There seems to be a real hand-crank vs electric pasta machine argument as well. Any comments?

        1. re: bdumes

          I know, I'm there with you, I tried and tried, but only received a gloppy, inedible mess not even close to resembling pasta for my troubles! I have the Kitchenaid attachments and was thrilled with even my first batch from it, but obviously that will only work if you have the mixer too. It's also nice because I can make it by myself much easier, not having to crank it and everything.

          1. re: Katie Nell

            I use the Atlas hand cranker.

            I use Hazan's recipe for pasta often but its all in the consistency. Sometimes I can not get to the thinness I want and blame myself.

            1. re: jfood

              I also use the Atlas hand crank. Mine is 20 years old and was cheap at the time, but works great. It so happens that I just finished making Marcella's recipe for pasta a few minutes ago; took me just 20 minutes start to end for the 6-8 people amount. I mix it in the food processor before hand.

            2. re: Katie Nell

              I have the KitchenAid attachment as well, and I love it. I need one hand to feed the dough, and one hand to catch it, so with the hand-crank machines it seems like I would need a third hand to crank the machine.

              I guess I put the hand-rolled pasta down to something that was interesting to read about, but not really something I wanted to try. More power to those of you who've actually tried it!

            3. re: bdumes

              I did that years ago, too and didn't get back to pasta making for a long time after because it was so much work. It was a whole afternoon of rolling, hanging pasta to dry and it tasted terrible. I've since gotten the machine and it made a huge difference. I have a hand crank. The only problem I have with it is that you need one hand to feed the pasta, another to pull it as it come through and another to turn the crank. I'd love hints on how to do it more efficiently. My kids help which is fun for them right now.

              I agree w/ you about how it must be wonderful to do the whole thing by hand. And, when you see people do it well, it looks completely effortless.

              1. re: chowser

                I get around the "three hand" problem by only letting the sheet be about 10 inches long. Then I feed it in about an inch, then lay it down and move my hand to the "catch" position. Since it's not too long it doesn't "grab" on the ingoing side, it just slides through. But a second person is helpful.

        2. Thanks to everyone. I guess it's off to Amazon!

          1. Back when I couldn't afford even a cheap pasta machine, I did this: Make the pasta dough and after kneading divide into two balls. On a floured board, roll each ball as thin as you can. Brush a very thin layer of olive oil on one of the pieces of dough. Place the second piece of dough on top. Roll the combined dough as thin as you can. Find a seam and peel back the top layer of dough. Voila!

            1. I have a hand cranked imperia machine, I understand the three hands problem and was taught a solution at the cookery school I went to...

              Make dough
              Portion to suitable size
              Roll through on widest setting
              Fold in to thirds, turn so folds make the sides
              Roll through on widest setting
              Set machine to second widest setting roll through, but when you get close to the end bring the first end of pasta back to the roller and press to the end that hasn't gone through yet - you will get a conveyor belt type thing. Finish rolling through, set machine to next setting, roll all the way around, next setting roll allthe way around etc etc. If you crank with your right hand you need to kind of throw and twisst with your left in the middle of the conveyor. It's a bit of an art but easier than rolling straight lines! When you are done just cut across and you have a long sheet. (Just remember to dust with flour every now and then!)

              Oh, and remember to remove watches/rings!

              1 Reply
              1. re: ali patts

                Cool idea--only I'd have to remove the pasta to send it through the fettucini/spaghetti rollers. That's where I have most of the problems