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April 21, 2006

The Temptation of Technology

Dominic Armato
I love my old, traditional pasta machine, both from a utilitarian and an aesthetic standpoint. It's simple, it's cheap, it performs an important function that can't be replicated by other tools, and it's essentially the same as the ones they made a century ago. It's the perfect pasta maker for somebody who's generally opposed to single-function or needlessly overpowered kitchen gadgets. Add to this the nostalgic memories of rolling out pasta on my parents' machine and hanging it over the backs of kitchen chairs to dry, and it's no small wonder that I've resisted upgrading from the simple, traditional hand crank model for so long.

The problem is, these days, I make a lot of pasta. At least twice a month, and usually more like every week, I make pasta for a crowd of anywhere from 6-12 healthy eaters. It's always on a weeknight, so I'm trying to crank out a huge pot in 90 minutes or less. And since it's me, I can't just do something simple every time. So, trying to hand-crank four pounds of fresh pasta in such a narrow window is difficult at best, and more often a sweaty, tiring chore.

So I finally caved.

I got the pasta roller attachments for Kitchenaid mixers, and I have to say, they're pretty awesome. I haven't tried the cutters yet, but the roller works great. I'm a little supicious of the thickness settings, however. The thickest setting would make it difficult to start a stiff dough, and on the other end, I can't conceive of ever using the last THREE settings. So, there's a full third of the dial that is way thinner than pasta should ever be. I thought it might be for working on other types of dough, but the directions explicitly state that the rollers are for pasta dough ONLY, so that's clearly not the intention. I plan on determining whether mine was somehow adjusted improperly. But even so, it's really nice to work with. It's way faster. It's obviously way easier. And I'm getting better pasta from it as well. With the crank hand now free, it's infinitely easier to guide the dough, and I'm getting sheets of much more uniform width and thickness.

Thumbs up, even if they are a little pricey.

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