Maybe you've been rolling your own for some time, but have you experimented with shapes? I got turned on to the hand-crank pasta machine years ago, but it was only recently that I figured out how to make some of the fancy-pants shapes like rigatoni and bucatini from scratch.
Turns out there's a KitchenAid attachment that has six interchangeable disks and it will spit out small and large macaroni, bucatini (thick hollow tubes as above), spaghetti, fusilli (corkscrews) and rigatoni (short ribbed tubes). I love using it; I feel like my own little pasta factory. So you want to make pasta like a pro? Here's how to do it.
First, make sure you have time. For your first attempt, you'll need about 20-30 minutes to make the dough and at least 30 minutes to let it rest. Then, depending on the quantity and shape you're making, you'll need an additional 30 minutes or more to roll it out and cut it plus at least 30 minutes to dry. If I'm making pasta for a weekend dinner, I usually make it in the morning, then leave it to dry under towels until evening to reduce the evening cooking crunch time.
Start with a good recipe for pasta dough. I like an egg-based dough, but there are many out there.
Next, decide on your equipment. You can make fresh pasta with as little as a rolling pin (or wine bottle!) but having some kind of crank or electric-operated roller or press helps get an even result. Before you invest in something that will take up room in your kitchen, remember that noodles were rolled and cut by hand for centuries before machines came along.For off-the-grid rolling, I love the Imperia roller; it will give you flat sheets that you can cut by hand for lasagna sheets, ravioli, or wide shapes like pappardelle. Or you can send the sheets through one of the Imperia attachments for spaghetti or fettuccine. Motorized attachments like the KitchenAid pasta press are novel because they allow you to create shapes that are much more difficult to manage by hand, but you will have to learn how to get into the rhythm of it. It takes practice to know when to slice the shape away from the machine and how to deal with the sudden onslaught of between four and sixteen pieces of sticky fresh pasta. The pay-off is high. Click through below for a full review of this gadget.
• Read our full review: Product Review: KitchenAid Pasta Press AttachmentI won't try to trick you into thinking making fresh pasta is quick. Mixing the dough is no big deal; you'll need some elbow grease but the recipes are all simple. Rolling and drying it takes some practice, but as long as you're armed with a bag full of semolina (to keep the pieces from sticking as they dry) and a clean place to dry the pasta (large table, backs of chairs, or a rack of some sort), you'll have no problem putting together a fresh-pasta meal.
And then, if you want just a few ideas for putting together a sauce or two, try one of these:Imperia Pasta Machine by CucinaPro (Cooking.com, $69.95); KitchenAid Pasta Press Attachment (Williams-Sonoma, $179.95)
Related Link: How to Make Gnocchi
(Images: Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan)