Long Pasta Rolling Pins
For a long time I never understood why Italians used such long (~ 3-4 foot) rolling pins for pasta. I looked online for videos and saw chefs using shorter pins and leaning hard on them as they rolled out the dough. So I also wondered how the little old Italian ladies I had seen in pictures, holding rolling pins nearly as tall as they were, could muster the strength to roll out thin pasta dough. Then I finally saw a video -- it happened to be on the Vermont Rolling Pins site -- showing the real thing:
To give credit where due, the link came from:
This method involves little downward pressure and the gradual stretching of the dough horizontally along the pin as it is rolled and unrolled -- thus the need for a longer pin. It's easy once you've done it a few times. Sometimes a little supplemental rolling with pressure is needed at the end, but not much.
Once I saw this I went to Home Depot and got a 3' length of 1.25" dowel to try it out. Worked fine but then of course I wanted a really nice pin and ended up getting the cherry wood pin from Vermont. Very very nice, and about 1.75" in diameter, which helps. But the main point is, this revolutionized my pasta making (yes, I know, big news...) It's much quicker than doing the same amount with a pasta rolling machine, and you don't have to clean/store a machine when you're done. The pasta has a slightly rougher texture and holds sauce a bit better, too. Finally, because I was used to the output of a pasta machine I used to trim the hand rolled dough into rectagles, wasting some. Then I realized it does no harm to just fold up the circular dough (or half of it, if it's a large piece) and slice it up. Little or no waste.
Anyhow, I wonder how many others are avoiding hand-rolling of pasta because they are as misinformed as I was about how it's really done.
I just returned from a year in Umbria, where I had the great good luck to have a pasta making lesson with an Italian nonna. She said what it sounds like you discovered-that when you roll pasta in a machine, it takes on the surface of the machine. Like glass. So it lacks the porous texture that holds the sauce. This was a revolutionary discovery for me. Even though I didn't have the long pin for another few months, I started making pasta all the time (which became easier with the pin, as it helps dictate how thin to roll the pasta-- my pin is for 3 eggs, when the dough is the diameter of the pin, it's rolled thinly enough). The difference is insane. I, too, found it much easier and faster. The lesson shattered all kinds of misconceptions for me about making pasta. I'm not sure about Chowhound's policy on including links, so perhaps it's not okay to link to my blog where I wrote about it. But, in the hopes that it is okay, I'm including it, as I learned so much I'd love to share.
@ mdamiani - I just came across your post here and on your website - very informative. I'm hoping to start making pasta by hand this year and I'm in the process of acquiring the equipment (mattarello rolling pin, pasta board) and learning more about pasta making. I was wondering if you could explain the difference in size of the rolling pins. You mentioned that your pin is for 3 eggs. How long is your pin? What's the difference in sizes for the pins per egg? Is it a few inches more per egg? I'm having problems finding information and any feedback would be helpful. Thanks.