In today’s Testing 1-2-3 we’re going to be taking a look at pasta making machines, namely, a very basic model from Imperia. Why? Because according to the way we like to cook (and the way you should like to cook) the freshest ingredients are what really make a meal. Sure, it’s easier to run into the supermarket and grab a sack of rigatoni for a couple of bucks, but if you really love to cook and can make that pasta yourself, why not go for it.
Pasta’s usually a relatively quick meal to make and it seemed unlikely I would whip out the pasta maker and whip up a bunch of dough every time I wanted spaghetti and meat-sauce.
I was also concerned that while it would be nice to be eating fresh pasta, the difference between it and its store-bought counterpart might not be drastic enough to consistently merit the effort.
We made the dough using 3 cups 00 Durum Semolina flour, 4 extra large eggs, 2 tbsp olive oil, and a little bit of water.
After pouring the flour into a large bowl, we made a well in the middle and cracked the eggs and added the olive oil into the well. We worked it all together into a ball, mixing in a little water along the way to make sure it formed smoothly. The ball of dough was then kneaded for 5 minutes, and its surface covered with a few drops of olive oil before being put on a plate to sit for 15-20 minutes.
When the dough was ready, we cut off a slice from the ball that was approximately ½ inch thick, flattened it out a little with our hands, and we were ready to go.
The pasta machine itself had 2 separate sections for the dough to be passed through – One to flatten it thin, and the other to turn it from a sheet of dough into actual pasta. Both were operated by a removable crank.
We set the machine to the widest setting, and fed the dough through for the first run. No problem. Every time we’d run it through, we’d crank the setting up one, making it thinner, and after dousing the dough with a little flour to avoid it sticking, ran it through again. We had decided on making some fettuccini and stopped after reaching a medium thickness.
Now for the moment of truth. We took our long sheet of dough, fed it into the noodle section and started cranking away. Lo and behold…it worked for a second and then the dough started bunching up all weird like a piece of fabric caught in a sewing machine. Boo.
As we discovered, this can be a fairly common occurrence when using a pasta making machine of this kind for the first time. We pulled out the dough, dusted the inner-workings of the machine with a bit of flour so it would hopefully run more smoothly the second time, and gave it another whirl.
Success! In seconds we had cranked out long, perfectly formed, fresh pasta that was ready to be tossed in a pot and cooked up. Which is exactly what we did with it.
First off, I was wrong to worry that the fresh pasta’s taste wouldn’t justify the short time it took to prepare it. The wonderful texture and flavor just can’t compare to the store bought stuff. Not to mention the cool feeling you get from knowing that you made it all from scratch. To be honest, I’m not sure I’ll be able to go back. Full marks there.
As far as not necessarily wanting to make the noodles every time I wanted pasta, I realized I wouldn’t need to. Just coating the pasta in flour and tossing it into a zip-lock bag allows it to easily be frozen. Make a big batch, separate it into meal portions and pull them out of the freezer whenever you need them.
Finally, and I can’t stress this enough – the process was fun as hell! For this reason, I’d highly recommend not going with an electric pasta maker. There’s something truly satisfying about watching the noodles come out with every turn of the crank. It really felt like being a kid again and playing with play-dough, but with the added bonus of being able to safely consume this version without becoming violently ill.
If you’re thinking about getting a pasta maker, do it. They’re cheap, fun, and can treat you to a better bowl of pasta than you’re probably used to.