Pasta is often used as a delivery vehicle for sauce, considered too bland to stand alone.
However, with a pasta maker at home, you can create delicious flavored pastas including spinach fettuccine and sweet potato gnocchi that require only a light butter sauce or drizzle of olive oil.
Why Get A Pasta Maker?
Basic pasta can be as simple as flour and eggs. There are varieties of flour specific to pasta-making, but nearly any flour can be used to create pasta if mixed with care and used in shapes that conform to the flour's capabilities.
For example, whole wheat flour will produce a dense, hearty noodle in wide shapes but may not tolerate being cut into narrow strips.
Without a pasta maker, you can mix your dough with a heavy duty hand mixer and a dough hook, but you'll need to roll out and cut the noodles.
There are tools to help with this process, but fans of light, thin noodles, such as ramen, will struggle to come up with a pasta format that they can enjoy. However, there are hand crank pasta cutters that can help you customize your homemade pasta cutters.
With an electric pasta maker, you can make your dough and extrude your noodles from one machine. Many pasta makers offer multiple extrusion discs for a variety of shapes, including thin angel hair, thick fettuccine noodles, and round penne.
How Well Do They Work?
Fans of fresh pasta know that there's a fair bit of work in mixing the dough, rolling it out and cutting it. These same fans also know that the outcome is well worth the labor!
Check out the following video by Todd from Todd's Kitchen on how to make pasta with a manual pasta maker.
However, if hand-cut pasta is not possible with your schedule, you can still enjoy fresh pasta thanks to one of the many automatic pasta makers or pasta cutters on the market.
Homemade pasta machines offer cooks the chance to load the dough components into the tool and let it do the mixing. Once the dough is mixed, the machine extrudes it through a feed chute where you can capture it for cooking.
If you prefer to mix your own dough, you can purchase a pasta roller for a precision cut. This tool is generally manual, features a hand crank and also offers a feed chute where you can capture your freshly cut pasta.
How Do I Choose The Best Pasta Machine?
The best pasta maker is the one that suits your schedule and storage needs. While you may need a compact unit, be aware that there are small pasta makers available that offer plenty of power.
There are a few tricks to making it easier to remove dough from extrusion discs, such as freezing them or simply allowing the pasta to dry in the tool. Other pasta makers offer a cleaning disc with the extrusion discs.
Check out the following to help you better understand the differences between types of pasta makers.
Pasta Maker Reviews
Electric & Automatic Pasta Makers
Most electric models combine mixer with extruder. If you like to mix your pasta dough by hand, or if you enjoy adding fresh herbs or vegetables to your pasta...
... you'll need to experiment with your current recipes to get them to work in the electric mixer so you get the great texture you're used to.
SEE ALSO: Best Vegetable Spiralizers to make "pasta" from vegetables only!
These pasta makers tend to be a fairly heavy unit, so take care in your storage decisions that you don't wind up placing heavy items over your head. For the power you need, heavier is better.
The mixing motors on pasta makers need to provide plenty of power for mixing stiff pasta dough, and the extrusion process takes a fair bit of force.
Your extruder knives or discs will be under a lot of pressure once the dough starts to press through. While cleanup is always critical, the fact that many pasta recipes contain raw eggs make cleanup even more important.
Tip: If you notice your extruder discs becoming clogged, consider placing them in the freezer for a bit, then knocking off the bits of frozen dough before placing the discs in the dishwasher.
Capture configuration is extremely important. As pasta is extruded from the machine, over-handling may cause clumping or breakage, so consider selecting a machine designed to make capture easy.
If the extruder disc mechanism is set too close to the countertop, it may be difficult to catch your fresh pasta.
Manual Pasta Makers
Manual pasta makers generally only offer a cutting tool, so you'll still need to mix your pasta dough as previous.
The cranking tools work well for flat noodles cut in long strips, such as spaghetti or fettuccine, but may not offer much to fans of round noodles such as penne or ziti.
Many manufacturers offer extra cutting tools for multiple applications, so check out their websites for additional attachments. You can also roll out sheets of pasta and create your own pasta tubes, such as manicotti.
A manual pasta cutter may need lubrication to keep it running smoothly. Some units recommend not washing them with soap and water because they may rust.
If a rust-prevention lubricant was added to the pasta cutter prior to shipment, the first couple of batches of pasta should not be eaten.
Also, be aware that the process of hand-cranking dough through these machines takes some force. Follow all instructions regarding setting up the tool so the base is stable and clamped if a clamp is included in the design.
You may also be surprised to find that some machines offer an "extrusion only" setting, so your homemade dough recipe can be mixed by hand and extruded through your electric pasta maker.
Pasta dough is extremely heavy and may require some hand mixing. If you've got a homemade pasta recipe you love and have mixed it many times, it can be hard to turn over that mixing process to the machine
Like bread dough, pasta dough has a texture and weight that cooks get accustomed to. Be prepared to experiment when producing your first few batches of pasta.
No matter who or what does the mixing, homemade, freshly cut pasta is an amazing treat. Each cook has their own preference for dough stiffness, thickness of the rollout, and width of cut.
If pasta is popular in your household, consider investing in a pasta maker or pasta cutter so you and your family can experiment and create unique dishes to your tastes!
Did you enjoy this guide? Let us know in the comments with your thoughts and experiences with your favorite pasta maker.