How to Use a Pasta Machine to Make Fresh Pastas

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Photo by Fotolia/Lucky Dragon USA
Look for hand crank pasta machines at cooking equipment stores or online. The classic Marcato Atlas 150, as shown here, will cost about $70.

There are fancy pasta extruding machines on the market, as well as manual and motorized mixer attachments for rolling, stretching and cutting homemade pasta dough. But manual pasta machines are more affordable for most people. Most pasta machines can be fitted with a variety of roller attachments that cut the dough into noodles — from thin spaghetti to wide ribbon-like pappardelle.

Set up your pasta machine with the rollers on the widest setting (number 1 on my standard Marcato Atlas hand-crank machine). Scatter a little semolina flour on the work surface around the machine and have more on hand for sprinkling on the dough.

Cut the ball of dough into four equal pieces and rewrap three pieces. Knead the remaining piece briefly. Then, form the dough into an oval 3 to 4 inches long and about 3 inches wide. Feed the dough through the rollers of the pasta machine, and then lay the strip on the work surface. Fold the dough into thirds, as you would a business letter, sprinkle with a little semolina, and pass it through the rollers again.

Repeat the folding and rolling process a few more times, until the strip of dough is smooth. Move the roller to the next narrower notch and feed the strip through twice, sprinkling it with semolina if necessary to keep it from sticking. Continue to pass the dough through the pasta roller twice on each setting, until it is about 1/16-inch thick or slightly thicker (the second- or third-narrowest notch on my machine). Lay the sheet of dough on a semolina- or flour-dusted surface and stretch the remaining three pieces.

Use the cutter attachment to cut a sheet of dough into thin or wide noodles. Sprinkle them liberally with semolina to keep them from sticking and wrap them gently around your hand to form a “nest,” which will be about one serving. Set the nest on a semolina-dusted rimmed baking sheet to dry. Cut the remaining sheets of dough into noodles in the same way and arrange them on the baking sheet. Cook the pasta immediately, or let it air-dry until stiff to the touch. It will cook quickly in boiling water, much faster than dried pasta does, so start to test it after a minute or so.

Domenica Marchetti cranks out pasta and other Italian recipes for her family in Alexandria, Va. She is the author, most recently, of The Glorious Vegetables of Italy and The Glorious Pasta of Italy, both published byChronicle Books.