How to Use a Pasta Machine - an Illustrated Guide
For many years, my family's meals were dominated by my husband's food preferences - and he was a meat and potatoes kind of guy. Pasta made only an infrequent appearance on my table, so rolling and cutting my own freshly made pasta dough by hand was the norm and, since I chose to stay at home with my kids, never too inconvenient or time consuming.
When it came to being just me and my girls though, our meals took a 180° turn; out went most of the rich, meaty dishes and in came the pasta and rice dishes we all enjoy, together with armloads of more fresh vegetables. Finding me in the kitchen preparing pasta much more frequently inspired my girls to suggest that I might like a pasta machine for my birthday.
Now, I don't own every kitchen gadget or time-saving device under the sun and the few I do possess I frequently can't be bothered dragging out and setting up, especially for small tasks. I also don't make my own pasta religiously either. For something like Lasagna, I'll just pick up a pack of whatever we need from the supermarket. Where homemade pasta comes into its own though is when it's stirred through a light meat, seafood or vegetable sauce - and we eat meals like that often.
So, after some thought, I became the proud owner of a pasta machine several years ago, and I have to say, it's one of the best investments I never made. Now I can roll the dough paper-thin and cut very fine noodles such as tagliolini and tagliarini, which was impossible by hand.
My pasta machine is a hand-cranked model but, I am told, electric models work in the exact same manner - just with a bit less effort. The rollers are fully adjustable, and can be set wide apart or very close together, normally with the use of a dial. To knead the dough, you start off at the widest setting and gradually reduce the space until the dough reaches the desired thickness. Then a roller with blades cuts the noodles to the desired width.
Knowing how to use a pasta machine is one thing, but don't expect to be able to roll and cut perfect noodles the first, or even the first few, times you use it. Practice really does make perfect.
Instructions for use
1. To knead the dough: Flatten a piece of the dough slightly and then feed it through the machine's rollers on their widest setting.
2. Fold the resulting strip of dough in half and feed it through again. Continue folding the dough and feeding it through the rollers until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8-10 times. If the dough feels sticky, dust it with flour before continuing.
3. To roll the dough: Adjust the rollers to the next narrower setting and feed the strip of dough through again, without folding it. Narrow the rollers again and feed the strip of dough through. Continue feeding the dough through the rollers at increasingly narrower settings until it is the desired thinness. Dust with flour and dry for 10-15 minutes.
A word about drying out
It is very important that you leave the pasta dough to dry before cutting it into noodles, or they will tend to stick together. If it is a humid day, this initial drying can take up to 30 minutes.
4. To cut pasta noodles: Set the cutting blades on the machine to the desired width. Feed the strip of dough through the blades, letting it fall on to a tea towel dusted with flour. Dry for about 5 minutes before cooking. (To dry completely for longer storage, leave the noodles on the floured tea towel, or hang them over a drying rack - even a clean broom handle will do - for 2-3 hours. Sprinkle the noodles with semolina to prevent them sticking together and pack loosely in a plastic bag or in a box with each layer separated).
By now, you are probably very keen to try your freshly made pasta, so here is a quick and easy recipe for Lemon Pasta with Clam Sauce. To make it, you simply cook 2-3 finely chopped garlic cloves in 5 tablespoons of olive oil for 1 minute or until softened. Add 8 oz (250 g) steamed shelled clams, chopped if large, with 3 tablespoons of their cooking liquid or canned baby clams, drained. Heat the clams through, then add 4 tablespoons of chopped parsley and 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice. Toss the sauce with 12 oz (375 g) of cooked and drained fresh lemon pasta and freshly ground pepper (if you have it, but regular ground pepper will do). Serve immediately. This quantity is enough to serve 4 people comfortably.
Links in this series
- How to Make Pasta Dough by Hand or Food Processor - an Illustrated Guide
This fully illustrated step-by-step guide will show you how to make fresh pasta dough easily - either by hand or with the help of a food processor.
Items you may be interested in
This article was written for Hubpages and published on 8 November, 2009. All text and photos remain the property of The Good Cook.
More by this Author
Learn how to make shortcrust pastry with these step-by step directions. Instructions include pictures of each step and a video.
Using the microwave to cook white or brown rice saves washing up and ensures you achieve separate, fluffy grains not a gluggy mess! Shows how to cook long grain and short grain white and brown rice.
Step-by-step directions for how to make choux pastry and shape it into eclairs or puffs. Pictures and a video help to illustrate each stage of the process.