Pasta makers can be tricky to operate at first, but once you get the hang of it, you can produce delicious, homemade pasta in a short period of time. Most machines have attachments that allow you to produce several shapes and sizes of pasta. Once your dough is ready, you can go from dough to ready-to-cook pasta in as long as it takes the water to boil, and fresh pasta only needs to cook for a minute or two. Buon appetito!
There are two main types of pasta makers: hand-cranked and electric. (You can also get attachments for many stand mixers that will make pasta.)
* It's difficult to determine the best pasta maker on the market -- even the 3.5 and four-star ones on Amazon.com have more than a handful of detractors, and no machine is perfect.
* No major publications have reviewed pasta makers except for Cook's Illustrated (subscription required), and the most recent review is from 1995. There are also a number of reviews on Amazon.com from the last five years or so.
* Cook's and Amazon.com can agree on one electric pasta machine: the Simac MX700. It was Cook's first choice in 1995 and is still popular, getting an average of 4 stars from 32 reviewers on Amazon.
* As for manual machines, the VillaWare V150 Imperia averaged 3.5 stars with an impressive 63 reviews. (Cook's didn't cover manual machines.)
* Both recommendations are pictured in their respective categories above.
Things to Consider
* '''Using Your Pasta Maker'''
** The most important part of using a pasta maker is to follow the directions. Many complaints come from problems that could have been avoided by following the manual.
** Keep in mind that a pasta maker is not a bread machine -- you don't pour in ingredients and leave it alone for a few hours. Pasta makers require a bit more finesse and care to make good pasta.
** Let the dough rest -- many reviewers say at least 20 minutes or half an hour -- before putting it through the machine. This will help the consistency of the pasta.
** Some pasta makers can only make a few kinds of pasta; some come with attachments for ten or twelve.
** Often, if the attachment isn't included with the pasta maker, it can be purchased separately.
** Look for ravioli maker attachments in particular. If your pasta maker doesn't come with one and you don't feel like buying one separately, you can make wide, flat lasagne pieces and do the rest by hand.
** Also, if you prefer short pasta, you may not be satisfied with a machine that can only produce spaghetti and linguini. To get the shorter pieces you will have to do some extra cutting.
* '''Alternative Appliances'''
** Some pasta extruders can also be used for making homemade sausage; likewise, some sausage makers can also be used to make pasta. Check for the proper attachments for your machine.
*** The Ronco PAS17 is a pasta and sausage maker. Clean it thoroughly.
** Many juicers can also serve as pasta extruders. If you have a juicer already, you may just need to buy a special attachment to convert it into a pasta maker.
*** The GreenStar line of juicers come with two or three (depending on the model) pasta dies and can extrude homemade pasta.
* '''Ease of Cleaning'''
** Attachments are great for versatility, but killer for cleanup.
** Look for dishwasher-safe attachments when available.
** Metal far outshines plastic for ease of cleaning.
** Do not immerse a pasta maker in water unless you are sure it is alright to do so. Many have components that can rust if they get wet.
** To clean dough off the machine, allow it to dry overnight and brush it off. If you immerse a dough-covered pasta maker in water, you will just get a horrible cement-like flour coating.
** Look for a product with a warranty.
** Avoid "As Seen On TV" models. They tend to be cheaply constructed.
** When in doubt, opt for metal instead of plastic. Also, stick to manual over electric, as it's more likely to be a reliable machine.
** No machine is perfect; even the highest-rated machines have multiple complaints from owners about faulty pieces.