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Choosing a pasta machine

I want to buy a hand-cranked pasta machine, perhaps wit the option of attaching a motor later on. After reading several older queries on this board, I've decided against buying the KitchenAid attachment and learned that I'll probably have to settle for a machine will need additional clamping to the counter with a hardware vice or something. My counter lip is pretty small, though, so this problem worries me. Some friends recently got a machine made in China as a gift and they really don't like the blades. So:

Do I need to get Italian-made?
Which ones can take some real use and can roll very thin for ravioli, etc?
Which ones might have a strong stand or grips that actually work?

I'll willing to spend to get quality the first time. The CHOW pasta video shows an Atlas and that looks pretty good and is $95 on amazon.com, but that seems like a lot...

Thanks!

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  1. Italian-made is what you want, simpler the better. Avoid fanciful cutters that promise ravioli and stick to linguine, fettucine or wider cuts. The old school hand-cranked models with one or two slip-on cutters will last for years. These are capable of producing precise thicknesses from chunky to paper thin. I'd recommend clamping to a kitchen table or to a heavy cutting board if counter margins are too skimpy.

    1. I've had the standard Imperia machine for several years. It works great. As an aside, when I took a class a culinary school on handmade pasta this is the machine they used. I have a standard thickness counter and I always clamp it directly to the counter - but you should add a cutting board if the counter is too thin.

      http://www.amazon.com/Villaware-V150-...

      1. Wow, which threads did you read on the KitchenAid attachment? I did the same, saw almost universal praise, and bought one at an Amazon Friday sale two months ago. It is fantastic. I made great fettucine the first time out.

        To be clear, I mean this one:

        http://www.amazon.com/KitchenAid-KPRA...

        2 Replies
        1. re: wrenhunter

          I read a bunch of reviews inset in the hand-crank discussion, as well as a thread (if I remember correctly) on the KitchenAid attachment. People complained that it worked great the first few times, but broke or became problematic after a small number of uses. People also complained, less often, that it made the mixer very hot and they could tell it was really taxing the motor. Someone even looked into it and found out that the piece that often breaks is a small plastic piece that probably costs a dollar, but K.A. won't sell them or replace them. When I found out there was plastic in the construction, that was it for me. I'd rather invest in a fully metal model that won't wear out my precious mixer. But I did really want one before and Gourmet gave it a rave review last year. I wouldn't fuss so much over this purchase, except that I'm a student and although I spend a lot on kitchen stuff, I need it to last. I don't feel I can take the risk of buying a $100+ piece of equipment that several people have been so disappointed by.

          1. re: slowfoodgrrl

            For what it's worth, i've had nothing but great performance from my KA rollers.

            I can't imagine why rolling raw pasta dough through the rollers would tax a mixer.

            I have had problems getting a proper dough consistency while using the plastic extruder dies (for spaghetti, etc), but that's another product and process altogether. The link to the KA rollers provided by wrenhunter is the product I have. Could not be happier.

        2. I've had an Atlas for years, and it works great, although the price you found on Amazon seems a little high, as I recall them being in the $50-60 range not that long ago. The nice thing about an Atlas is that you can start with the basic hand-crank machine, and if you really get into pasta making, there are many attachments, including a motor.

          Actually, I just checked Sur La Table's website, and their basic Atlas is $69.95.

          http://www.surlatable.com/product/atl...

          1 Reply
          1. re: DanaB

            I bought an atlas as a poor grad student 20 years ago. I think it was about $20 then. It's great and so easy to use. $90 sounds like a lot, but maybe that's the way it goes.

          2. $95--wow, the dollar has taken a hit. I'd still go with an Italian machine, though. Atlas and Imperia get the best reviews. I like my Imperia.

            Word to the wise--looking at amazon.com, there's a lot of confusion wrt manufacturer / importer. So there's the Villaware Imperia, the Sunbeam Imperia, and the Cucina Pro Imperia, all of which appear to be the same basic Imperia machine, but which sell for a wide range of prices. Same with the Atlas, the Norpro Atlas, and the Marcato Atlas. Prices range from $35 to $100 for what appears to be essentially the same machine.

            Some of the price difference might have to do with the exchange rate as of the date of import, but there may be other factors involved too. Main thing is to look on the listing for "made in Italy" and check the box for the same when it arrives.

            IMHO you'll use the machine more if you get the motor now. Unless you've got a set of willing extra hands (and even then) it can be challenging to get an even sheet of pasta rolled and cut. Or maybe it's just my lack of coordination. YMMV.

            1. I got an Atlas 11 years ago when I went off to college ($20 at a thrift store) and it's served me wonderfully. It's really easy and fast to make a sheet of pasta, even a thin one, with it. The cutter makes simple flat noodles, and you can make stuffed pastas, lasagne, and simple shapes by hand from the sheets. You need to find something sturdy to clamp it to, but with a little ingenuity I've never had a problem (hint: it doesn't *have* to be clamped to the counter).

              1. I have the Imperia 150 Pasta Maker and I got it at Fante's. They're in Philadelphia but they ship all over. It's still made in Italy (not too sure about the Atlas anymore) and the price on the web site still looks good --- $54.99. You'll have to pay extra for shipping of course, but I highly recommend this pasta machine. I used to have an Atlas, ended up using it for polymer clay work so I had to replace it. And I like my new Imperia much better. It seems to leave a better "tooth" on the pasta and I like the thickness settings better. You will have to find some way to secure it to a table (or board). I use my kitchen table a lot of the time.

                The link to the web site is:

                http://fantes.com/pasta-makers.html

                Then when you have more money you can buy a motor for it, which takes all the work out of the process.

                1. I probably read the same posts as you and as a result bought an Imperia (Linens and Things for $40). They do make a motor attachment, which you can get online for around $70. That makes the cost roughly equal or a little less than the Kitchen Aid attachment.

                  If you get the motor you won't need the clamp. Otherwise the problem is not that the clamp is weak, but that there is only one of them, so the machine shifts when you turn the crank. If you also use a 2-inch C-clamp (cost: $3.00) to hold down the left side of the machine it is completely stable.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Zeldog

                    I have an Atlas, no directions in box, just Italian language on outside of box. Anyway, the hand crank keeps slipping out of position and falling on the floor -- I'm afraid it's doing to dent my nice hardwood floor. Am I doing something wrong?

                    1. re: walker

                      No, it's just a loose fit. The Imperia has the same problem. I keep some 1inch squares of plastic film cut from freezer bags on hand and put one over the slot before inserting the crank. It bunches up and holds the crank in place pretty well. Just be sure you don't make the plastic so small it disappears into the innards of the machine.

                      1. re: Zeldog

                        Thanks a lot for the reply; it's good to know I'm not the problem. I'll try the plastic next time.

                  2. Okay, I'm changing my recommendation. I was the person who earlier said to get the Imperial from Fante's. But I just got the Kitchenaid past attachment and they sure are nice. I had the motor that went with the hand-crank machine but it was so darn loud. Plus the height that the KA gives you makes a HUGE difference in the ease of handling the dough. It seems unlikely that unless your dough is way too stiff, the gears would be a problem. I don't hear the motor strain at all. Also, I'd bet that the internal gears in the later hand-crank models from Italy are the same.

                    It actually took much less time for me to roll out the dough. I was very surprised that it was so much easier.

                    1. The attachment set for the Kitchenaid that I just bought from Amazon states on the box "All Metal Pasta Sheet Roller".

                      So I think they fixed their problem and changed from plastic gears back to metal.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: Carole

                        Hmm. Now I'm back to the drawing board. I had given up on the KA attachment (when I was told it had plastic innards) and come around to the idea of hand-cranked. Anyone else want to praise or condemn the KA attachment or, perhaps, make a case for going the hand-crank route anyway, even if the KA attachment went all-metal?

                        1. re: slowfoodgrrl

                          I'm in the anti-KA camp. My pasta roller failed because a small part broke; not a big deal, but KA refuses to sell the replacement part. Along the same lines, my KA blender went into the garbage because the $2 clutch wore out, and they stopped selling replacements when they discontinued the model.

                          IMHO KitchenAid makes small appliances that are designed to work for a while, break, and then be pitched. They're obviously entitled to pursue whatever business model they believe is appropriate, but I'd rather buy higher-quality items that can be repaired.

                          1. re: slowfoodgrrl

                            Just to add more fuel to the fire <smile>, the KA pasta attachments are all made in Italy. Same as the better hand-crank machines. They are as heavy as all get out.

                            1. re: slowfoodgrrl

                              I think the bigger challenge to a mixer is making the dough. As much as I like my Imperia, if I had a solid KA mixer that had proven itself by making a dozen or so batches of pasta dough, I would go with the attachment. I rolled pasta using a friend's KA. It was great not having to use two machines, I didn't wish I had an extra hand, and the results were excellent. Not any better than hand cranked, but way easier.

                              But be sure to keep your receipt and warranty info. KA gets very mixed reviews when it comes to reliability.

                              1. re: Zeldog

                                I agree with you. Pasta dough is a challenge in the mixer.

                                I still make my pasta dough by hand using the well method. That's the easiest way for me to get the exact consistency that I want. Start out with (per person) 1 egg and 100 grams of all-purpose flour plus a very small amount of olive oil. Just multiply it by the number of people you want to serve. Then I knead it for 8-10 minutes. I enjoy the kneading process so it's a pleasant activity for me.

                          2. I've had an Atlas since the mid eighties, and it still works beautifully. Unless you are catering a wedding, hand-cranking isn't exactly torturous work. A motor seems really pointless. Extra complication and money toward no useful end.

                            1. My nickels worth is with the concensus -- shop around and get an Atlas unit -- the 150 model is just fine for most. Shop around -- you can probably get a basic model for $60 or so. Also pick up the gizmo for hanging your pasta, or you will have to drape them off the backs of chairs like I do.

                              The design is basically bulletproof. When I purchased, it included a cutter for linguine and futtucini, and have since purchased a spaghetti cutter. The motor has never seemed necessary. They make lots of different cutters -- stick with the basics. Small shapes, like capellini, are challenging -- perfect your technique with fettucini and linguine first before buying a bunch of cutters.

                              The ravioli and mezzaluna gizmos look like fun, but I could never justify the purchase. Those are easy enough to make by hand once you have used your pasta machine to roll out the sheets of dough.

                              I don't have plans to buy a KA mixer so the pasta maker attachment is a non-starter. Besides, pretty sure a stand mixer is not the tool for the job of mixing the dough anyway -- a fork and your fingers are the right tool for the job!

                              Have fun shopping and making pasta.

                              1 Reply
                              1. I guess I'm in the minority, but I love my KA pasta roller/ cutter! Heavier than a dutch oven, all metal, made in Italy. And (heavens no!) I make Marcella Hazan's basic pasta dough in the stand mixer! It's just so easy....dump the flour (AP & a little semolina) in the bowl, make a well, add your eggs, put the dough hook on and let 'er rip. 5 or 6 minutes of kneading and you're done. Did a side by side of hand kneaded vs. KA dough and there's no difference. The key is letting the dough rest for up to an hour to let the glutens "relax" whether the dough is hand or machine kneaded. I find making the dough by hand messier and labor intensive (the kneading part- it's a stiff dough, not like a nice yeasty dough...). I always do a 60 second "hand knead", so I can claim it's "hand made" ;). Plus, for making spinach pasta, the KA incorporates the spin. into the dough much better than I could do by hand. Just my $0.02. adam

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: adamshoe

                                  I always use my KA for mixing/kneading the dough.

                                  I didn't buy the attachment because I read all of the reviews about the plastic shear pin (which may have been corrected), but I was looking over a year ago. Being a pasta novice at the time, I'm sure I would have broken that (or blown up my mixer) trying to put a disk of too-thick dough through the rollers. The other thing was that the pasta roller attachment was the same price as the pasta roller with a motor, which I really don't need.

                                  I did buy a cappellini cutter, but my fresh cappellini goes from al dente to mush by the time you know it's done.

                                2. My best advice to anyone considering a pasta machine, whether a crank model or one that mixes and extrudes the pasta for you (like mine) is to make absolutely sure you like fresh pasta! They sell it in most supermarkets. I bought my very expensive pasta machine without doing this, then later discovered you cannot get the "al dente" firmness I prefer with freshly made pasta. So my best advice is not so much what kind of machine, but test before you invest! Good luck!

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                    IMO fresh and dried pasta each have a role. I prefer fresh pasta with a cream, butter or oil based sauce - the pasta soaks in the sauce and creates a richer, silkier taste. The dried cooked al dente is a good foil for a red sauce where I want the sauce to cling but not overwhelm the taste of the pasta.

                                    1. re: alwayscooking

                                      my favorite uses for fresh pasta are with sage butter, and to make raviolis. It's amazingly good for both of these.

                                      1. re: alwayscooking

                                        The best pasta with pesto I ever had was many years ago at an old school Italian restaurant in San Francisco's North Beach. It was fresh, house-made green fettuccine and the sauce was assertively flavorful. The pasta was sensuously tender and the green color looked so very right with the pesto. After that, whenever I make pesto, I make sure it goes on green pasta.

                                      2. re: Caroline1

                                        Excellent point, Caroline1. This is one of the rare cases where fresh does not necessarily mean better. If you want pasta al dente you can go to a lot of trouble finding the right flour and spend hours making and drying pasta that is no better than what you can buy in a store. And no way you're going to make your own penne. But if you like the softer texture of fresh pasta, or want to make tortellini or ravioli ...

                                      3. I am about to use our Atlas- it's lasted years and we love it.

                                        1. No one has mentioned using a small food processor for making the noodle dough. I find my old Westbend Oskar to make a perfect one egg amount at a time in about 60 seconds or less. I drop it in a baggie to rest while I spin up any more if I need it. Put the flour in first, and the machine barely needs cleaning, plus no flour all over the place. As for using a KA, I own one and tolerate it for the few tasks I use it for each year, but if I didn't have one I would gladly use my larger food processor and halve up the mixing. I can't imagine having to get it out every time I make pasta, or letting it take up counter space everyday. I wouldn't mind seeing it demonstrated, just in case it is somehow miraculously easier or quieter. Still, if I did love my KA, I wouldn't want to risk having to replace it prematurely since I make pasta frequently. Another tip, I cut plastic needlework cloth into halves that fit through the pasta machine base. I cut the sheets of noodles to the same length as the mesh pieces. If I want to dry any noodles I can lay them on the cloth as I cut them and move them about or stack them on cookie drying racks, etc. I find having the motor to be totally worth it. You don't have to clamp it down, so you can use it where ever you like, and it is much faster and less work if you are making lots of noodles. Buy the metal motor, I have the plastic cased one and it has cracked around the switch- not that I couldn't fix it with a bit of JB weld.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: UNC

                                            I made fresh pasta two days ago (for the first time) and I used a blender to make the dough.
                                            And it was delicious. =)

                                            So good in fact, that I'm thinking about buying a pasta roller of some sort, so thanks to everyone who posted here for all the advice. I did think 300$ for a Kitchenaid roller seemed a little steep... Nice to know there are other good ones out there.

                                          2. I am Italian and all I see around me are the Imperia Pasta Machines from my mom and all the other old school pasta experts! They have had it for decades and my mom's pasta is simply unbeatable!
                                            A neat new motor attachment can be inserted so it becomes crank free!
                                            Any italian would only recommend the imperia. I think because it works great and lasts forever! They also have a ravioli attachment and I just bought 2 to give to my mom and mother-inlaw for Christmas. Ravioli are usually pretty long to make individually and this one seems to pump out a dozen at a time. Can't wait to test it out.
                                            Enjoy your pasta whatever path you choose!

                                            1. I'm with the KA fans - I have made lots of fresh pasta with amazing results and lots of compliments! It's extremely fast and easy to use. You can make fresh pasta and sauce from scratch to serve 4 in 30-40 minutes, not sure you could go that fast with a hand crank. I have also tried doing everything manually including hand kneading the dough and using a hand crank machine (Imperia), and it was really good but took much longer and did not produce better results. The product I have is the same link as wrenhunter. Whatever you decide, I'm sure your pasta will be amazing ... especially if you use the freshest, free-run eggs!

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Adventures_in_Food

                                                Well, I don't really know too much about the size of the KA attachments but comparing it by price. The Imperia Pasta Machine is cheaper and so are the additional attachments if you care to buy them. Not sure why KA feels it needs to charge so much but a bit of a rip off if you ask me and I know you didn't!

                                              2. Does anyone know the difference between the Marcato Atlas capellini and vermicelli attachments? They're both listed as 1 mm. This photo from a place that sells both shows vermicelli as straight and capellini as tangled:

                                                http://www.kasbahouse.com/villawareon...

                                                Sorted list of cutter attachments:

                                                V183 capellini 1 mm
                                                V194 vermicelli 1 mm
                                                V197 spaghetti chitarra 2 mm
                                                V185 spaghetti 2mm round
                                                V195 linguine 3mm
                                                V184 trenette 3.5 mm
                                                V196 mafaldine 8mm wavy edge
                                                V176 lasagnette 10mm
                                                V186 reginette 12mm wavy edge
                                                V187 pappardelle 50 mm

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                  My ATLAS parts don't agree with your list....capellini "angel hair" 1mm
                                                  vermicelli "fine spaghetti" 1.5mm
                                                  I just checked the Fantes catalogue for sizing and they list what I have.Maybe a typo somewhere.

                                                2. I have had this ( http://www.fantes.com/atlas-electric.... ) electric Atlas motorized machine for around 20 years now. I have been very happy with it though I rarely use the pasta making portion, preferring to do this by hand. When I have used the pasta maker, I've found that I need to get the amount of dough just right in order to get it to kneed properly. So much easier to do by hand. But I do really like the motorized press and cutters. It's a little noisy, but so much easier to do with both hands free and not having to worry about a crank. It is very easy to use and doesn't take up much space.

                                                  The traditional italian pasta recipe is 1 egg per etto (100g) of flour. The pasta maker instructions actually say 4 eggs per 420 g of flour. I find that this recipe is lacking and add two or three (depending on the quality of eggs) extra egg yolks per whole egg added. So in this case for every ~100 grams flour, 1 egg and 2-3 egg yolks, and a pinch of salt.

                                                  1. This isn't exactly what you asked, but I can't resist...I've had good luck with an Imperia but also decided to try making pasta the old way, by rolling it out. It's easy, and no, it doesn't take a lot of effort or muscle. So just to broaden the discussion...take a look at these links and you'll see what I mean. What you do is basically stretch the dough along horizontally along the length of your long rolling pin as you roll the dough onto the wooden rod. After a few times you'll get the hang of it. Sometimes you'll end up with one or two areas a little thicker than you like, and you can spread out the sheet of dough and roll over those a few times to thin them further. But none of it is hard work. The quality is much better than the ooze you get out of those kitchenaid things, and in one way it's actually a bit better than the product of the Italian machines because hand rolled pasta has a slightly rougher surface (and holds the sauce better as a result) than the pasta made by those stainless steel rollers. Finally, you don't have to get an expensive Italian rolling pin, a 1 1/4" dowell about 3' long from home depot or lowe's will work fine, and cost just a few dollars.

                                                    So here are two links showing use of the rolling pin:

                                                    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YfGzuA...

                                                    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuOMAu...

                                                    And here's a link showing at the end how to easily cut up the pasta, whether you want it wide or narrow. Notice that you do this by rolling up the whole round sheet of dough -- no trimming needed, and it's very quick.

                                                    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHVYuI...

                                                    When you consider the hassle of setting up the machine, the slow process of feeding dough through the rollers repeatedly, the process of carefully putting aside the rolled sheets prior to cutting, the need to clean the machine afterward...doing it by hand is actually quicker for me, now that I've had some practice.

                                                    Not saying it's the only good way, just wanted to give you something to think about. Maybe someone will want to try it some time even if you usually use a machine -- the only cost is the dowel rod.