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Pasta from scratch for the home cook

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This morning I was reading the Oct issue of BA, and read the article about making pasta from scratch. I would love to try this and learn something new, but am a little leary about spending money for a pasta roller (like the looks of the attachment for my kitchen aid mixer) and investing an entire day to make the dough, let it rise, roll it, cut it, rest it, and finally cook it. Is the investment in equipment and time worth it for the home cook? Do any other chowhounders who cook for their families do this?

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  1. I went to an all day pasta class at Whole Foods last Saturday. We learned how to make fresh pasta and some sauces. Honestly, I didn't think the pasta was any better than a good boxed brand. It was fun, but it just wasn't worth the effort to me. I'd do it if I were going to make a big batch of ravioli or lasagne so I could have the sheets of pasta, but for spagetti, linguine, etc, I wouldn't do it.

    2 Replies
    1. re: GenieinTX

      That has not been my experience......this pasta usually is made with eggs..so the texture and flavor is very different from dried flour and water pasta..
      for example in "Lidia's Family Table" http://www.amazon.com/Lidias-Family-T... she has recipes from "Poor Man's 2 Egg Pasta' to "Rich Man's Golden Pasta" which uses 9 egg yolks (and ofcourse "Middle Class Not Quite Golden Pasta" which uses 3 whole eggs and one egg yolk)..just use a light sauce to enhance the pasta and don't drown it in a heavy tomato sauce. Other pastas use different grains and flours, giving a completely different culinary experience...these include Whole Wheat, Buckwheat, Semolina, Flaxseed, Cornmeal/Polenta Pasta, Barley flour, Chickpea flour, Chestnut flour pasta, Potato flour...etc...you get the idea.....I like the pasta attachment on my Kitchenaid. But pasta can be made using a plain rolling pin as well...Try it...if you find out you really like your results you can then make an investment in a pasta roller.

      1. re: ChowFun_derek

        This recipe was 2 and 1/2 c all purpose flour and four eggs. I thought the pasta had no flavor to it, and the recipe may be why. Thank goodness my experience was abnormal. I couldn't figure out what the fuss was about with homemade pasta. I'll try with some other recipes. I really had fun doing it.

    2. I have an excellent cookbook named The Pasta Bible, that shows you how to make all kinds of pasta, with or without machines. It covers noodle, gnocchi, spaetzle, potato dumplings, and on and on. I wouldn't go to the expensive of buying a pasta machine until you see how easy it is to do without one. Here is a review of it:
      http://www.ochef.com/0670869961.htm

      I think homemade is so much better, IMO, but I was raised with a grandma that, when she was in town, made us all of the above, by hand. And I got to help!

      4 Replies
      1. re: danhole

        The difference between homemade pasta and storebought noodles for lasagne is like night and day. And there's no need for pasta dough to rise. I use Marcella Hazan's recipe and do it all the same day. I must say, though, I wouldn't bother if I didn't have the KA rolling attachment. Even though I'm pretty dough savvy and have no qualms about rolling, I would think that hand rolling and cutting lasagne noodles would put it in the "don't feel like bothering" category for me.

        1. re: JoanN

          Ditto everything you just said. I know it's snotty, but I don't think I could live without my Kitchenaid now!

          1. re: Katie Nell

            Me neither! :)

        2. re: danhole

          So what's the difference between a pasta and a noodle? Or is noodle a type of pasta? I've been making the pasta recipes from Lidia's book, but last night needed a noodle for chicken soup. I turned to the Joy of Cooking (my starting place for everything), and could only see that butter was used instead of olive oil. Is it a colloquialism? Pasta is Italian, noodle is Euro-American? These are just the things I think about.

        3. Don't know what pasta recipes you were looking at that require an entire day. Typical fresh pasta is quick and easy. Just mix together flour, water, egg, and salt, knead for a few minutes, and run the dough through the machine.

          As to the machine, consider a basic Italian hand-cranked model. IMHO, the KitchenAid attachment is an overpriced piece of junk. The drivetrain contains cheap plastic parts that break easily cannot be replaced. I was lucky--mine broke shortly after purchase and the retailer accepted it as a return. Otherwise, it would have been $150 down the toilet.

          A real pasta machine costs about 1/3 as much as the KA attachment (less if you can find a good sale). Yes, you have to turn the crank by hand. And so will your grandchildren when they inherit the machine. Mine's an Imperia. Atlas and Altea also get good reviews.

          7 Replies
          1. re: alanbarnes

            I'm shocked you had problems with your KA pasta rolling attachment. Mine must be a dozen years old, used on average once a month, and still working perfectly. I wonder if, as with so many other appliances, the older ones were better made.

            1. re: JoanN

              My experience with the KA pasta rolling attachment has also been wonderful, but mine is also at least a dozen years old (probably closer to 20 years). They probably shifted to a less expensive material to make the parts, which has resulted in an inferior product.

              BTW. I think making pasta is a fun way to spend a few hours and is a great family activity.

              1. re: Springhaze2

                Mine is only two years old, and we have had great luck with it so far. But, then again, my KA itself is only about 4 or so years old and I haven't had the problems with it that everyone talks about either.

                1. re: Springhaze2

                  The older KA attachments were in many ways superior to the new versions - it's worth looking for these in antiques malls and flea markets, since they've never changed the dimensions of the mounting area. This means that not only can I use the 1930s meat-grinder attachment on my 1950s KA mixer, but I can use both my '80s sausage stuffer and brand-new grinder disks as well! That old grinder, unlike the new ones, has a heavy metal body, which I trust a lot more than I do the current plastic ones.

                2. re: JoanN

                  If you've used yours a hundred times or more without incident, I'd be willing to bet that there's been a design change. At least as far as the newer KA rollers go, the problem I experienced is apparently fairly common. (Reminder to self: next time, do internet research before pulling out credit card.)

                  The thing that really drove me nuts was when KA customer service told me that they don't sell replacements for the sacrificial part. The $150 attachment is rendered worthless when this <$1 part fails.

                  1. re: alanbarnes

                    Although my KA rollers have indeed been used at least a hundred times, I had exactly the experience you describe (in fact, just yesterday) when I was making my Kabocha squash soup for Thanksgiving. The coupling mechanism on my not very old KA blender burned out. As you say, machine rendered worthless when a <$1 part fails. And what's even more frustrating, you can buy the part online, but KA won't tell you how to replace it. I feel your pain.

                    1. re: JoanN

                      At least the part is available. (Here are installation instructions: http://www.marbeck.com/9704230_Instal... .) When I ruined the clutch on my KA blender a few years ago, I was told that the model--and its parts--had been discontinued, and offered a generous discount on a new KA blender. I declined, and am now the proud owner of a Waring, which carries a full line of parts for every blender they ever made.

                      That's why I like the Italian pasta makers; they're not designed to be disposable. And anybody who wants to slap a motor on one can do so for under $100. Sure, the machine takes up more space than a KA attachment, but it also makes a full 6" wide sheet of pasta.

              2. I have made this dough from BA and I absolutely love it. I have made it without letting it rest the second time and it worked beautifully, and I have let it rest for the original 45 minutes and then stuck in the fridge and it was almost easier to work with that way. I can't say enough about this dough and how easy it is to work with (and not nearly as time consuming as it appears!) Fesh pasta makes a huge difference for some sauces and I have really enjoyed it. I have an Atlas Mercato hand crank machine that works fine. The time investment has definitely been worth it for me.

                1 Reply
                1. re: meghanclaire66

                  This is the machine I have had for 20 years, and I'm now ready to make pasta. Thanks for posting, I feel like I can make it with this machine now.
                  I've made pasta with a rolling pin for stuffed large tortellini, it was good but could of been thinner. Fresh pasta is the best!

                2. Don't forget you can always freeze the fresh pasta...I think it's a great way of spending a rainy afternoon and it means you can whip out home-made pasta to impress people on the spur of the moment!

                  alexthepink
                  http://www.princessandrecipe.blogspot...

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: alexthepink

                    This is exactly what we do. My husband and I will spend a Saturday making all different kinds of pasta and freezing them. Last Christmas we gave everyone a couple of bunches of fettucini and a jar of Marcella's bolognese, both frozen.

                    1. re: Katie Nell

                      I see, I didn't think about making batches in advance and freezing it. I thought "fresh" meant it had to be right away. Do you think freezing it takes something away from it at all?

                      1. re: egbluesuede

                        No, I honestly don't. We just toss it with a little bit of extra flour and make nests of the spaghetti or fettucine. Now, our freezer is not a good freezer and I do think that takes away from the pasta, but when we've eaten it at our parents' houses, it tastes just the same. Oh, for the days when we have a house *and* a good freezer! :-)

                  2. You're seeing this as much harder than it really is. To make 2 egg pasta, about a pound: put 2 C of flour on your counter. Add a little salt and stir it around with a fork. Make a well in the middle like a volcano. Break 2 eggs into the well. Use your fork to break the yolks and stir the eggs into the flour. The trick here is to make the circle of flour larger as you mix. You start with a volcano and move toward a lake, keeping the eggs from running out of the circle of flour. When the eggs are mixed in, you may have to add a little water. All this takes about five minutes. Once it starts forming up, start kneading it. You can knead from 8 to 15 minutes. Cut the dough in half and form it into hockey pucks and let them rest for about 15 minutes while you have a tea break. With out a machine, you roll it by hand. Put down a little bench flour, flour both sides of one of the pieces of dough and your rolling pin, and start rolling. I just made some noodles for chicken noodle soup last week. They were thick. I rolled them with a tapered stick to around 9 x 18 inches. Rolled it up to an 18 inch roll and cut it at about 1/4 inch. I ended up with about a pound of thick, 1/4 inch by 9 inch noodles. You can spread them out to dry or cook them immediately. For lasagna, I wanted thin, so I used a hand crank machine. I only need one egg of pasta. I divided the dough up and ran it through the rollers, adjusting and rolling, until I got to the finest setting. I just cut these sheets into smaller strips to fit my loaf pan. It all takes longer to write about than to do.

                    Here's a site with directions and pictures and showing how to use the machine. Uh, surprise, they'll sell you one, too. They offer the three brands you hear named most often and have accessories. The thing is, you don't need nuthin' but a rolling pin and a fork to give it a go.
                    http://www.fantes.com/imperia.htm

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: yayadave

                      The BA article makes it seem more complicated than it probably needed to be. They are saying to let the dough rest about 3 times throughout an 8 step process, which to me seemed like it would take all day. I guess if I take a stab at it and do it once, it really would start to seem pretty easy.

                      1. re: egbluesuede

                        Somewhere about the time Conte Nast took over BA it went all precious and turned into a Gourmet clone. About the time they had a recipe for beef stew that started with "Cut 2 pounds of fillet into stew sized pieces" I quit getting it.

                    2. If you're going to get a pasta machine go to ebay and you can likely get one for under $30.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Den

                        That's a great tip! I'm seeing a bunch with a listing that ends within a few hours, and some of them are in the $20 range. Nice looking equipment too.

                        1. re: egbluesuede

                          I like the Imperia machines. I also have the motor that clips to the machine. It makes it so easy. Anyway, I don't think you can go wrong with the Atlas, Mercato or Imperia. If you can afford it though, get the motor. It frees you up to handle the dough better.

                          1. re: Den

                            I would be wary on the shipping for something like that. You might end up with a better deal getting something at Bed,Bath,Beyond or Linens-N-Things using one of their 20% off coupons.

                            1. re: foxy fairy

                              Don't be. The machines are incredibly durable and I've purchased 2 through Ebay with no problems.

                      2. I have an Atlas machine with a clamp-on motor attachment that uses a foot-pedal switch. Very handy, if you're as clumsy as I am - I frequently need two hands to manage the sheet of pasta I'm making.

                        With the wide availability of very good dried pasta, I don't make it as often as I used to. When I do, it's usually either to make egg noodles (SO much easier than mom's rolling-pin method!) or to make sheets for lasagna, ravioli, canneloni or maltagliati.

                        1. I would suggest starting with a stand-alone pasta machine. As others have pointed out, they are inexpensive and I think it is probably less stressful to start out with a non-motorized unit.

                          We use the kitchenaid attachment now, and it is definitely faster, but this is after getting a "feel" for things with a stand-alone first.

                          Homemade pasta is definitely worth it. The texture is completely different from dried pasta. The best thing is that you can make your own filled pasta (i.e. ravioli) and put whatever you want in them.

                          1. This is a nice little book. It's information is spare, but it tells you what you need to know. I like that it has more pages of instruction and recipes for making pasta than it has for sauces and fillings. It's about pasta.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: yayadave

                              What book is it? Did I miss something?

                              1. re: danhole

                                You know, in the middle of the night I woke up briefly and wondered if I had copied the link. Guess not.

                                http://www.amazon.com/New-Pasta-Machi...

                            2. Here's another interesting take on the subject.

                              http://www.culinary-yours.com/pasta.html

                              1. I made fresh pasta while living in a rented house (with poorly-furnished kitchen) in Germany, using my hand to mix the dough, a wine bottle to roll it out, and a knife to cut. Worked fine.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: pikawicca

                                  Love this post.

                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                    I'm impressed. I tried it with a wine bottle. I could not get it to work right. Thick and thin noodles. And, I tried to hang the noodles up and had them everywhere. It was the most exhausting afternoon...

                                    1. re: chowser

                                      What a wonderful image though! You could write a great little culinary memoir essay on that... I can just see the pasta dangling everywhere while a flustered hound paces the kitchen :)

                                      1. re: foxy fairy

                                        Pacing, covered with flour! It tasted really bad but I made my husband eat it because it took so much work. We were newlyweds then so he complied (and complimented).

                                      2. re: chowser

                                        Well, I'd already perfected my wine-bottle rolling technique on pastry while a college freshman in Munich. I found that a Riesling bottle worked best, and it should be full.

                                    2. I'm not sure I agree with struggling with the non motorized pasta machine "to get the hang of it" first. I would suspect that you see so many unused or barely used Imperia and Atlas machines on Ebay is that it is cumbersome to roll out dough with the hand crank without 2 people...you really need a third hand. It's tough to feed the dough, crank the machine and then guide the sheet out of the machine without over stretching it when it's fed in our guided out. The clip on motors are really the ticket because they let you use both hands to feed the dough and guide it out. This is especially important if you make ravioli as the sheets need to be of a uniform width if you use a ravioli press.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Den

                                        Re: "You really need a third hand"--Isn't that why people have children? :)

                                        As long as I can get my kids to fight over who gets to crank the pasta machine, no motor is required.

                                      2. I have an Atlas Mercato hand crank machine that I've had for 20 years - it's still in perfect condition. I don't find it hard to hand roll at all - no motor needed and I can do it fine with my own 2 hands.

                                        Making pasta is very easy and worth the time. I've never frozen it (thanks for the tip), but have dried it - I bought a wooden collapsible clothes rack - one to let clothes air dry - and put a sheet underneath it to catch any mess as the pasta dried.

                                        I have a cookbook that a friend gave me when I got my pasta machine as a Christmas present from my Mom. It is an excellent cookbook for the beginning pasta maker. Some really good recipes.

                                        The Joy of Pasta by Joe Famularo and Louise Imperiale

                                        You can get it on Amazon.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Jeanne

                                          I use mine for production, usually making sheets for 200 to 300 ravioli at a time so hand cranking is not a good option.

                                          1. re: Den

                                            Sheets for 200-300 ravioli at a time? I don't think I'd hand crank either!

                                        2. We've split a query about which pasta machine to buy to the Cookware board. You can follow that discussion here:

                                          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/461004

                                          Thanks!

                                          1. Simply put: making pasta buy hand is a labor intensive, labor of love. You have to want to do it and be patient but if made right, you will have something uniquely you and that is fulfilling. That said: there are so many great dried pasta's out there that I doubt anyone at your dinner table could ever tell the difference. I do agree however, with ravioli or tortellini comment though. If your going to serve a stuffed pasta, rolling it out and filling it yourself is a nice way to get exactly what you want. Last night for example I wanted to experiment with a take on mint and lamb. I dint want to serve Turkey.
                                            I made a traditional bolognese sauce but with ground lamb and pork instead of beef and pork. To go with it I made a traditional (in style) pesto but I substituted basil for mint. I quickly made pasta sheets, cut squares, placed a teaspoon of pesto on each square and sealed them shut with a hand crimper. The sauce had been simmering all afternoon and I just tossed the ravioli in very gently bubbling water for three minutes, when cooked I combined the pasta and the meat sauce in a seperate pan to gently toss them together, a little fresh pecorino and we were in business. Unless I made the pasta myself I couldnt have made this dish. I would have had to come up with some other idea to combine the two. But I felt like experimenting and it was a great way to spend my day. If you are just buying small shapes or a spag-linguini noodle, I recommend dry De Cecco, Rao's os some other high quality brand rather than making it yourself. Try it and you will quickly find whether its for you or not. Good luck !

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: thomtompkins

                                              Your experience is different than mine, I guess. I find making fresh pasta a simple task that takes very little time or effort. Put a pound of flour, a big pinch of salt, and five eggs into the mixer with a dough hook, turn it on, and walk away. Come back ten minutes later, cover the dough and move it to the fridge, and walk away again. An hour after that, roll the dough out. Let it sit for another half hour or so, then cut. Done and done. The only labor-intensive part is running the dough through the rollers half a dozen times; with the able assistance of one of my kids, it takes five to ten minutes of hands-on time.

                                              As for fresh and dried pasta being indistinguishable, I couldn't disagree with you more. The flavors and textures are very, very different. They don't even have any of the same ingredients: fresh pasta is soft wheat and eggs, dried pasta is durum wheat and water.

                                              And for those who want to make their own ravioli but find making the pasta sheets a chore, there are always the wonton skins from the grocery...

                                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                                ...assuming you have a mixer with a dough hook. (I'm sure that Marcella Hazan would sneer with contempt at such a shortcut - correct me if I'm wrong :D). As I don't, I agree with Thom Tompkins... it can be quite a chore, but I very much like the results.

                                                1. re: vorpal

                                                  If you don't have a dough hook and mixer, it works as well in a food processor.

                                                  I find fresh egg pasta has a unique flavor and texture compared to dried pasta, and so far I actually find it fun to make!

                                                2. re: alanbarnes

                                                  I'm with you -- making fresh pasta is like making mashed potatoes; no biggie.