I always dreamed about making my own pasta, but it seemed way too daunting. An Italian family in our building invited us over last year for dinner and served three different kinds of homemade pasta. My foodie son (who won’t eat dried pasta) licked his plate. Soon afterwards, my friend David revealed that he also makes his own pasta. Apparently, his mom used to sell pasta machines and he ended up with an extra and offered to let me try it out.
What David had was actually what they call a Pasta Extruder. The best way to describe it is like one of those play dough machines you used to enjoy as a kid. You take the dough and push it through a tube with the shape of your choice to make ziti, penne, tubitini and macaroni. I found a recipe and tried it out. The kids had fun, we made a mess and we ended up with a nice bowl of fresh pasta that everyone loved. Still, it felt like a lot of work for not much more than small bowl for each of us, but I knew I had to try it again.
I was researching buying my own pasta extruder when I met Alessandara Rovati, Italianblogger for Dinner in Venice, who confessed that even Italians don’t make their own pasta all the time. Alessandra saves it for special occasions and mostly when she is making filled pasta like ravioli or lasagna. She also explained the difference between the dried pasta in a box that you can make with an extruder and fresh pasta. Most dried pasta does not have any eggs and the recipes I followed to make the pasta in the extruder didn’t either. They are also meant to be dried. Who has time to do that? She convinced me that an inexpensive old fashioned pasta roller is all I needed. After several memorable Italian pasta dinners, I do believe she was right.
I bought one of these $40 machines and tried it out. There was definitely some trial and error. It’s still a fair amount of work, but the kids can get involved and the end result is most definitely worth it! I usually save it for a Sunday afternoon when we have extra time and I make onebatch of spaghetti or fettuccine that we cook and eat fresh and one batch of ravioli that I freeze for the following week.
To make pasta the way they do in Italy, try a fine flour called “00” which you might find at an Italian market or specialty store. Otherwise, you can use all purpose or even cake flour. I also sprinkle semolina flour on top when rolling the dough, to help it from sticking to the machine. No matter what flour you use, with a little practice you will be making pasta like Strega Nona in no time at all!