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P A S T A ~ P E R F E C T I O N 🇮🇹 🇮🇹 🇮🇹 🇮🇹
on July 5, 2011
I've been tempted to try making fresh pasta for decades, but shied away from getting a pasta maker because I thought it would be difficult and messy, and that it was at least a two-person job. I was wrong on all counts. I took a cooking class when I was in Rome recently, and the Italian chef/instructor had not one but TWO Marcato Atlas 150 pasta makers that he used in both his restaurant and cooking classes. Among other things we did in the cooking class, we made fresh pasta, and I was astounded how easy it was. With only the briefest instruction, we made enough pasta to feed 12 hungry people in a matter of minutes. I bought the Atlas 150 for myself the minute I got home, and have been making pasta, all by myself, ever since. It's very easy, but getting the dough right is absolutely key to success.
You'll never be happy with this or any other pasta maker if you don't get the dough right. If it's sticking to the roller or cutters, or the noodle strands come out of cutter stuck together, it's NOT the fault of the pasta maker, it's because THE DOUGH IS TOO WET - period. It's fine to use a dough "recipe," but you simply cannot rely on a recipe to produce dough that isn't too wet or too dry - there are too many variables. The type/blend/brands of flour, the temperature and humidity of your kitchen, the size/temperature of the eggs, if the dough has oil in it or not. . .all these things affect the dough. A recipe can be a good guide - a place to start - but you must be prepared to tinker with the dough to get it just right.
To make my favorite pasta I generally use equal parts of all-purpose and semolina flours. I add salt and olive oil to taste - for me that's about a scant ½ teaspoon of each per egg. I like pasta made with AP flour alone - it's silky smooth and delicious - but I prefer the gorgeous color, and extra flavor and "bite" that comes by adding the high-protein semolina. That said, I like my fettuccine noodles a little softer, so when I make it I add just a little semolina flour or none at all - it's just that easy to make it the way you like. I've learned that I can count on one generous serving for every egg in the dough - a simple way to determine how much to make. Without using any real measuring devices, I "eyeball" the amount of salt and oil needed according to the number of eggs, then add flour until it feels right, and that's as close as I ever get to a "recipe."
I use my food processor with the dough blade to mix the dough. I start with all the eggs (room temperature), the salt, oil and enough flour to make a wet slurry. I keep adding flour(s) until the dough gathers together to form a single cohesive ball/blob, then continue adding flour until the ball starts to crumble. When it does, I stop and pinch some of the them together to test the consistency - at first the crumbles are large and pinch together in a wet, sticky dough. I keep processing in more flour, again and again, until the crumbles get smaller and start resembling coarse meal - a little smaller than the size of peas. When I can finally pinch the crumbles and they hold together without being remotely sticky, I gather and pinch it all together by hand forming a somewhat shaggy looking ball. (If I add too much flour while the dough is in the food processor, I process in a few drops of room temperature water to correct it.) Whether you make your dough by hand, in a stand mixer, or any other method, this is the consistency the dough ball should be BEFORE resting it.
After this the ball of dough should be wrapped in plastic and left to rest at room temperature (not in the fridge) for at least 20-30 minutes before rolling and cutting - this ensures that every particle of flour is completely hydrated, and allows the gluten to relax which makes it easier to roll. The dough that might have seemed a little too dry and stiff before this rest, will now be more pliable and the perfect consistency for rolling and cutting per the pasta maker instructions.
The single most important step to successfully making homemade pasta is NOT making the dough too wet. One reviewer here suggests practicing to "get the feel" for the consistency of the dough, and s/he's absolutely right. Another says to dust with "flour, flour, and more flour" when rolling and cutting the pasta, and s/he's absolutely wrong. If you have to add that much flour when rolling and cutting your pasta, THE DOUGH IS TOO WET - period. Think about it. . .it doesn't matter if a sheet of too-wet dough is dusted in a mountain of dry flour. . .the roller/cutters will squish/cut right through it and expose the sticky wet dough inside, and when it does, IT WILL STICK.
With practice I promise you'll get the hang of it. I have, and now I can roll and cut pasta with little or no additional flour, and it's an absolute delight to make pasta without it sticking, and without flour spread all over the kitchen. The importance of achieving the proper consistency/hydration of the dough is the lesson I learned from a seasoned Italian chef in Rome, and I'm here to say that it works. It will work for you too - don't give up.
HOW THIS PASTA MAKER DIFFERS FROM ALL THE REST ==> The "Wellness" innovation on this pasta machine is no gimmick. The rollers and cutters on Atlas Wellness makers are made of anodized aluminum with a special "micro-rough" surface that grabs the dough better. And because the rollers and cutters are free of heavy metals, such as chromium and nickel, there is no chance that particles of these harmful metals can be released into the pasta - hence the name "Wellness."
Marcato is the largest manufacturer of pasta machines worldwide, and the "Wellness" feature is their exclusive patent. While the Marcato pasta maker is widely copied by others (and even counterfeited in China), no other manufacturer offers rollers and cutters that are free of heavy metals. The Wellness feature, along with Marcato's 3-year warranty, is worthy of consideration when comparing this pasta maker to other brands that have nickel-plated rollers/cutters and only a 1-year warranty.
This is the only pasta maker I've ever owned or used, but the obvious endorsement of an Italian chef, food-safe anodized aluminum rollers, and a 3-year warranty made my decision to get this one a no-brainer. It works great for me and I find it extremely easy to use. Clean-up is just as easy so long as it's not been used to roll and cut overly-wet dough. A clean, dry pastry brush does most of the work, but a can of compressed air can help blast flour from little spaces with ease. I also send wax paper sheets through the cutters to dislodge anything that might be left behind, and the wax also "lubricates" the cutters. I just fold a piece into two or three layers to fit the width of the cutter, then roll it through - no worries - it shreds the paper, but it doesn't hurt a thing and works great.
My favorite website for all things pasta, and for pasta-making inspiration is - mangiabenepasta-dot-com. Don't wait as long as I did to enjoy the pleasures of making and eating fresh pasta - buona fortuna!