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Pasta Makers

Home made pasta is delicious, nutritious and a highly enjoyable and satisfying experience to create. You can truly taste the improvement in the flavor when compared to dried pasta bought off the shelf. With a good pasta maker, you can make a wide variety of dishes ranging from ravioli to lasagna, spaghetti to tagliatelle and linguine to fettuccini. And with a fine machine, you'll be sure to have a great deal of fun as well.

The detailed guidelines on this page are provided by How To Make Pasta for use with mechanical machines such as the Marcato Atlas '150' Pasta Maker. Beautiful and compact stainless steel machines like these can typically be purchased for under the $100 mark. There are also a variety of electric options available on the market. For example, the Marcato Atlas has an optionally available motor driven unit. Other dedicated electric machines can cost four times as much as manual mechanical models, so they are not as economical!

How To Make Pasta

In essence, there are three main steps to follow when making beautiful, home-made, fresh pasta in your kitchen.

1. Make your dough with the optimum consistency.

2. Shape the dough into flat sheets with your pasta maker.

3. Shape or cut the fresh pasta to combine with your recipe.

More detailed information and prices of a wide range of pasta machines can also be found at Pasta-Makers.com

The manual provided with your pasta maker should also have additional useful and specific information about making dough, using your pasta maker to make fine pasta, and using attachments to create a wide range of interesting shapes. Some manuals even have delicious recipes included! Enjoy your pasta making!


1. Make Your Pasta Dough

number one graphicTypical ingredients: 4 eggs, 2 1/4 cups unbleached or soft wheat flour, a little rice flour or corn meal (for constant dusting), a dash of salt. This makes enough for four people. Adapt this recipe to suit! As a rule of thumb, base the size of your meal preparation on the principle of one egg and just over half a cup of flour per person. How To Make Pasta also recommends that you see your manual and recipe books for info on ingredients and for delectable pasta fillings and pasta sauce recipes to add to your creation. For example, for "al dente" pasta, you can substitute a portion of the wheat ingredient above for traditional durum wheat flour. "Al dente" means "firm to the bite" in Italian.

Leave your eggs outside at room temperature for half an hour. Make sure you have very clean hands and bench top. Starting with the flour, pour it onto your bench top to create an imaginary "bowl" of flour in a kind of volcano shape. Make it hollow in the middle with a circular rim around the perimeter, an inch or so tall (2.5cm). Use your fingers to create this well about 6 inches wide (15.2cm). It should be just wide enough to contain the eggs you will break into it.

Keep a small reserve of dry flour at hand in case you need to add a pinch or two. Keep a small bowl of water nearby as well. Your aim is to make pasta with just the right consistency to best suit your pasta maker. And when completed, the dough should not stick to your fingers.

Break the eggs and drop them into the "bowl". Give the eggs a quick beating with a fork to break them up, reshaping the outside shape of the flour bowl with your other hand to prevent anything spilling out if necessary. Add a good dash of salt to taste, on top of the eggs. Keep beating and whisking the eggs. At this stage you can still use the fork for a minute or two longer to whisk the eggs if you wish.

At the same time, start flicking little bits of flour into the middle, being mindful not to lose the shape of the wall. The yolk starts to thicken. Put the fork aside and start using your hands. Scoop the flour inwards from the perimeter and keep mixing vigorously and firmly.

Keep reshaping your circular flour shape around the outside. The mixture is now starting to become more viscous and it will no longer spill so you can completely forget about the wall of flour. Remove excess dry flour from around the outside and mix and start to knead and squeeze and reshape all the dough with as much energy as you can. By this stage, the flour and all the eggs are all combined into the one big messy, clump of dough.

Special Note — The kneading process is hard work on your arms and hands! If you are unable to do this or don't have a strong family member at hand to help, it is possible to buy a separate electric dough mixer or stand mixer (with pasta accessories) to complete this stage of the process.

By now you are very actively kneading the mixture. You need to work hard, mixing and shaping and squeezing and rolling the flour into a single big piece of dough. If it sticks to your hands, it may be too moist and you can add a dash of flour, but only add a small amount at a time.

The creative kneading process continues for a while with a mixing and folding and pressing technique. Again, this mixing process needs lots of effort for 10 or 15 minutes. Lots of elbow grease and TLC as well! Just keep folding the mixture in half, then press it down strongly with the palms of your hands, again and again, rolling and pushing. You can even throw it down onto the bench top now and again.

The idea is to mix and squeeze and distribute the ingredients as completely and evenly as possible. A technique that works well is to push down hard on the dough, which squeezes and lengthens it. Then, stand it on its end and repeat the process.

If too moist, you can carefully add an extra dash of flour. If too dry, add a small splash of water. A number of tiny air holes can give you a clue that the consistency is about ready. But with experience, you will soon know when your pasta is ready by the feel and firmness of it.

Next, divide your big lump of pasta dough into four and reshape them into smaller ball shapes, each one fitting comfortably into the palm of your hand. The size should now be smaller than a tennis ball. The size is very important, because the volume needs to fit comfortably into a typical home pasta maker. (They are available in slightly different widths.) But there is no substitute for experience, your pasta needs to have just the right consistency and softness and firmness and volume to work well and for the optimum results from your pasta maker.

Sprinkle the four balls of dough with a very light touch of flour (so they don't stick to the plastic wrap you cover them with) and let them "set" for 15 minutes or so. This is where you can use the rice flour or corn meal for dusting.

The second step will be to roll the four pasta balls into flat, elongated shapes to suit your pasta maker so you can continue the process of creating your delicious pasta dish.

 


2. Use Your Pasta Maker

number two graphicSprinkle a generous amount of rice flour on your bench top to avoid stickiness. This is one of the secrets of how to make pasta. Grab the first ball of dough in your hands while keeping the others covered. Flatten the ball as much as possible to start with. Some people find that a rolling pin is useful at this stage. Make it approximately 4 inches wide (10cm) and 8-10 inches long (20-25cm) in a roughly rectangular shape. It should also be thinner than your finger, and the thickness should be fairly even. This shape is purely so that the dough will fit into your pasta maker in the next step.

Attach your pasta maker to your bench top in a convenient place with the clamp provided. (Remember, we are discussing mechanical machines here, not electric models.) Start with your machine at the widest setting (on most makers, this will be setting "One" but on some machines the numbers could be reversed!)

Feed the dough through the machine at this widest setting five or six times, each time folding it into halves or thirds, like a triple fold shape, for example. This helps to blend the mixture as evenly and smooth as possible. Your aim is to make your sheets more and more smooth and silky.

As an example, the Marcato Atlas '150' Pasta Maker has nine consecutive thickness settings which you control by clicking a convenient 9 position dial. These settings help to make it easy to make fresh home-made pasta.

Your sheet of dough has now been transformed into a thick but uniform sheet of uncooked pasta. This is a good opportunity for some family fun and involvement. An extra pair of hands is very useful when you are using your pasta maker to help manage the sheets as they come out of the machine.

pasta stamp picture

A tip from How To Make Pasta — If the dough is too soft and moist, the rollers won't be able to cut it. Add some flour to the mix and pass the dough through the rollers a few times to remix it. And if the dough is too dry, the rollers won't be able to grip and grasp it either. Add a little water and pass through the rollers.

Switch the pasta maker onto the second widest setting (usually number "Two"). This time, feed the pasta through two or three times, only this time, you don't need to refold the dough. You will notice the sheet of pasta is getting longer and thinner. The pasta stretches out a little each time it passes, and this helps it to settle. Now you are starting to see progress.

Tip — a useful idea is to put a handful of dry flour sprinkled on the bench top. Before each pass, you can drop the pasta sheet onto the flour to lightly dust it. This helps it to pass smoothly through the machine and prevent it from sticking.

Switch the machine to "Three". Repeat this procedure through the remaining settings of your pasta maker, each time switching to the next smallest setting. From here on, you might find that only two passes at each setting is sufficient for the optimum result.

Depending on the recipe you are planning, continue pushing the pasta through all the settings until you have achieved the thickness you want. You don't always have to go as far as the thinnest setting, it depends on your recipe and style. Repeat this procedure for all your pasta sheets and cover them to prevent excessive drying out.

Finally, to care for your pasta maker, simply wipe it with a clean, dry cloth or soft brush and scrape with a plastic or wooden scraper, avoiding detergents and water. Now and again, place a drop of oil on the rollers for smooth operation.

Special Note — A brand new machine may contain a trace residue of oil inside the rollers and interior. Run a spare sheet of dough through your new pasta maker and throw it away to clean it. This is also a good idea if you haven't used your machine for a long time. You can also carefully use a folded up paper towel to pass through the mechanism.

 


3. Shape And Cook Your Pasta

number three graphicHome made pasta is incredibly creative and versatile, and every recipe you create can be a little different. There are basically two main ways you can use your pasta in your home cooking. (That is if you don't leave your pasta uncut to make lasagna!) One way is to cut the flat sheets of pasta into shapes with a pasta cutter, and fill those shapes with a range of delicious ingredients and seal them for cooking. And the other option is to use the attachments provided with most good pasta makers to cut and shred your pasta sheets into a variety of widths and styles. Then, you are able to create attractive and appealing shapes and lengths in an almost infinite variety of delicious cuisine.

Make shapes with a pasta cutter

There are a variety of pasta cutters and stamps with many different shapes on the market. If you are lucky, some pasta cutters may have been included with your pasta maker set. Spread one of your pasta sheets out on the bench top. As always, sprinkle a tiny amount of flour first to prevent anything sticking. Using a pasta cutter (or even a small glass) press the shape into the pasta sheet, as close together as you can, to make the shapes. Remember to see your manual for more information.

Now you will have a big pile of beautiful pasta shapes ready for filling, like ravioli for example. Add your fillings individually, one by one. usually around half a teaspoon or so will be sufficient for each piece. The next stage is to fold the circle in half over the top of the filling to cover it. The final step is to press around the semi-circle with a fork to seal it. This also creates an attractive and stylish shape, always an essential part of the finest cooking.

Pasta like this will cook in as little as a minute or two when put into boiling water. Add salt to taste. Experience, experimentation and the taste test will help you know when it is ready. Always remember that fresh home made pasta cooks dramatically faster than the dried pasta you buy from the grocer.

Also, see your manual for details of your cutters and stamps and how to use them. These can provide a fun and creative activity for all the family as you can see in the photo of a pasta stamp at left.

Make shapes with a pasta maker attachment

Most pasta makers have optional accessories you can use to make a variety of pasta styles. There are countless styles of traditional Italian cuisine, so you are sure to want to experiment with creating a wide range of different shapes. These attachments simply clip on to the top of your machine quickly and easily. See your manual for specific instructions and advice on how to make pasta shapes and variations.

You can now use the same handle and mechanism you used to make your dough in Step One to feed the pasta sheets through the machine to shred them into different widths and styles. Simply move the handle crank from the machine to the attachment on most models, it should just click in simply and quickly. The procedure is the same, turn the handle and feed the pasta sheets through the attachment where the sheets are shredded. The attachment has a slot or chute at the top where you feed the pasta in.

Tip — turn the handle at a good fast clip for best results. Now you have a pile of pasta, and you can add a dash of corn meal or rice flour to prevent undue sticking. Mix it through the pasta pile. This is also another occasion where an extra pair of hands is a great help.

As an example, the Marcato Atlas '150' Pasta Maker has different gauge cutting options depending on whether you are making spaghetti or fettuccine for example. Fine machines like this model give you a versatile range of great options.

At this stage, you have the option of hanging the pasta on a drying rack, which are frequently made of wood. Or, you can make your own with some round wooden dowel. This helps to avoid sticking, though remember, you can also dust with flour at any time during the pasta making process to help prevent this. You can leave the pasta to dry for an hour or so, and this is an ideal time to start preparing your sauce or the other ingredients of your meal. (Pasta will also keep for more than a week if kept cool and dry.)

Finally, to cook your pasta, simply add it to boiling water with some salt added to taste to bring out the flavor. See your pasta maker's manual for cooking times and use the taste test, but cooking time is much quicker compared to dried, processed pasta from the supermarket, and can vary from as little as one to three minutes for a typical dish. In general, the narrower you make your pasta, the slightly more quickly it will cook. It's also a great idea to have a timer visible in your kitchen to help you make your pasta.

Finally, for more detailed information about a wide range of pasta machines available on the market and their prices, you're welcome to visit Pasta-Makers.com anytime.

 


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