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Nov 27, 2008 11:52 PM

Making your own pasta

This is one of the few things I haven't yet tried my hand at, cooking-wise. So I thought I'd ask my fellow Hounds for advice before I get started.

How difficult is it without a pasta machine? Is it worth getting the pasta attachment for my Kitchenaid stand mixer? If so, I can ask Santa to bring me one!

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  1. not everyone will agree, but i think it's a piece of cake with a machine and a total hassle without one. i haven't used the kitchenaid attachment, but my little countertop gadget is really easy, and i'm not sure the kitchenaid is much cheaper.

    it is possible to make by hand - just too much work for me. and it's totally mindless and wonderful with a machine.

    1. I'm going to both agree and disagree with pigtails here. With a machine (I have a simple hand-cranked one) it's very easy. Rolling the pasta out by hand isn't very difficult if you have the right rolling pin and a large, stable surface to work on. It's certainly easier to use a machine, as that's practically no effort, but it only takes a little bit longer to do it by hand, and you end out with a different product. More texture on the surface, which is often (but not always) an improvement.

      Now, that said, I have two caveats, which explain why I'm kind of agreeing with pigtails: the first is that there is a technique to it, and you need to fairly comfortably and rapidly execute a series of rolling outs, tugs, pulls and rotations to get it right. If you do it hesitantly and haltingly, you'll end out with a crappy product. I have no idea how hard it is to learn that from a book; if you have any Italian friends, you might ask them if they or anyone they know, is comfortable rolling out pasta by hand and would be willing to teach you. The second caveat is that durum pasta is not fun to roll out by hand. Up to about 1/3 durum, 2/3 soft wheat it's okay, but past that and it gets to be work.

      Without a doubt, get a pasta machine, though. With one you won't hesitate to make fresh pasta after work on a random wednesday night. The Atlas ones are lovely.

      10 Replies
      1. re: tmso

        Italians don't generally use durum semolina for hand-made pasta. That's for extruded pastas. My favorite flour for handmade pasta is King Arthur bread flour. Resiliant and slightly chewy. The Dean & Deluca cookbook has an excellent section on makiing pasta by hand, and describes each type of flour.

        1. re: MartinDC

          But for Americans who are used to the dry boxes, I find using a little semolina is a good mix to get that al dente pasta that we're used to. All purpose flour makes a very soft pasta and I haven't tried the 00 flour. But, I always have KA bread flour and will give it a try.

          1. re: chowser

            Give the bread flour a try. I tend to like it a lot, but everyone has his or her preference. I tried tipo 00 once, and it is a much lighter pasta. Mine was kind of airy. I was expecting something quite different though probably just out of ignorance.

            1. re: MartinDC

              Do you use the same proportion flour to egg with bread flour?

          2. re: MartinDC

            Anytime you say, "Italians do" or "Italians don't" in reference to cuisine, you risk stepping in it. The culinary traditions are just too varied. Perhaps in Emilia they use only soft wheat, but there are certainly plenty of pastas made by hand with, in whole or in part, durum, buckwheat and other grains.

            As for references, I'm pretty happy with the ones I have in Italian.

            1. re: tmso

              Yes, I did generalize -- something I do occasionally when I'm writing faster than I'm thinking!

              But is it common to make a dough from hard wheat and water for rolling out by hand? I thought you needed extra machinery to process durum semolina successfully, using high pressure for one thing.

              Considering that, I just buy a good quality imported dry pasta for dishes that traditionally use harder pastas.

              1. re: MartinDC

                It is common to make pasta at home from semola di grano duro, oil and water; or farina di grano tenero and egg; or a mix of the two. Looking through some recipes yesterday evening, I found several recipes each calling for all durum wheat flour; three parts durum to one part soft; half-and-half; one part durum to two parts soft; as well as equal parts soft wheat flour, durum flour, and whole soft wheat flour. That's not even counting pasta made from non-wheat grains.

                Fresh pasta made from grano duro is, as the name implies, stiffer and more difficult to roll out by hand. That's part of the reason it's often made mixed with soft flour. Pasta machines are especially useful with these stiff doughs, but some of my working-class aunties and uncles can roll it out by hand with relative ease.

                Extruded pasta is entirely another thing. That does indeed require special machinery and is not typically made in the home.

                1. re: tmso

                  As an example of a durum-dominated pasta, try tagliolini ai funghi:

                  300 g hard-wheat flour
                  100 g soft-wheat flour
                  1 egg
                  oil, water, salt

                  Make your pasta with the above ingredients, replacing the three eggs you would be missing if this were soft-wheat pasta, with water and a spoonful of oil each. Roll out the pasta and cut into very thin noodles, about 3x3 mm. Serve with a sauteed mushroom, butter, wine sauce.

          3. re: tmso

            One advantage to hand rolling with an unfinished wooden pin and stretching the pasta is that it makes a rough surface. Cranked pastas have a very smooth surface. I like to hand-roll pasta for certain sauces because it will clink better. Steel-rolled pasta is good for lasagne. But it's all good.

            1. re: MartinDC

              Yeah, lasagne is a good example of where steel rollers are good; also, I prefer it for most filled pastas other than ravioli, and for most hand-shaped ones like farfalle. They already have enough interesting features on the outside.

          4. i have the KA attachment, and it's a snap. i can't imagine how difficult it would be without something....

            1 Reply
            1. re: eLizard

              My Lady and I make fresh pasta at least weekly. We have the attachment for the KA and love it. It's not the rolling out that's the hassle. That can be done with a rolling pin; and we do when I'm make Apicius' Roman Rags soup and some other sheet pasta. It's the cutting into spagetti or fettucini strips that's a pain without the attachment. Put a pasta-bug in Santa's ear. You won't be sorry!

            2. I love my KA attachment as well. I'd never tried to roll pasta by hand since I don't have the surface on which to do it. It took a couple of tries before I got into the rhythm of it, but now I think nothing of whipping up a batch of pasta at the last minute for a quick evening meal. And the pasta is worlds beyond anything that comes in a box. The first time I made Hazan's Baked Green Lasagne it was a revelation. Do it. Not only will you be happy, Santa will, too.

              1. I found rolling by hand difficult. I think it depends on how precise of a person you are and I had problems rolling it to a uniform thickness. With the clamp on pasta machine, it's much easier, if I could solve the need for a third hand (one to feed, one to remove, one to turn the handle). I'd love to try the pasta attachment but am not sure I want to spend the money on it right now.