Equipment For Making Pasta

You can make pasta at home with not more sophisticated than a scale, some measuring spoons, a work surface and an ordinary rolling pin, but there are a few items of special equipment that will make the job easier. They are all available at specialty kitchenware stores and good department stores.

Tapered rolling pin

The traditional pin used in Italy for rolling out pasta dough is very long it measures almost 32 inches in length. It is about 1 1/2 inches wide in the center and tapers almost to a point at either end. This type of rolling pin is very easy to use and is well worth buying if you enjoy making pasta by hand and don't intend to buy a special machine. A conventional, straight rolling pin can be used instead, but try to get one that is quite slim no more than 2 inches in diameter.

Mechanical pasta machine

The same type of hand-cranked pasta machine has been used in Italian kitchens for many, many years. It has stood the test of time well, because it is still manufactured and used today, with very little modification. Made of stainless steel, it has rollers to press out the dough as thinly as possible and cutters for creating different shapes. The standard cutters usually allow you to make tagliatelle and tagliarini, but you can get attachments and accessories for other shapes, including pappardelle, ravioli and cannelloni. The machine is clamped to the edge of a work surface or table and worked by turning the handle. If you make pasta frequently, it is an excellent buy because it is inexpensive, easy and fun to use, and makes excellent pasta in a very short time. It takes all of the hard work out of making pasta by hand, and you can even get an electric motor for it so you don't have to turn the handle.

Electric Pasta Machines

Tabletop electric pasta machines mix the dough, knead it and then extrude it through cutters, so all you have to do is put the ingredients in the machine and turn it on. You can make more shapes with this type of machine than the mechanical one, but you have less control over the dough because you don't actually handle it at all. Electric pasta machines are only sold in some specialty kitchenware stores. They are expensive to buy, but are a worthwhile investment if you frequently make a lot of pasta they can make up to 21/4 pounds at a time—and have the space to house the machine in a convenient spot.

Pasta wheel

This is a useful gadget for cutting noodles, such as lasagne and tagliatelle, when you don't have a pasta machine, and for cutting out small stuffed shapes. The wheel can be straight or fluted, and there are some types that will cut several lengths of noodle at a time. A sharp knife can be used instead, but a pasta wheel is easier and gives a neater finish. With a pasta wheel, the pasta edges are less likely to be dragged out of shape or torn.

Ravioli cutter

This is virtually the same as a fluted cookie cutter except that it has a wooden handle and can be square or round. If you want to make square ravioli and cappelletti, you can use a pasta wheel instead of this cutter, so it isn't a vital piece of equipment. For round ravioli, tortellini and anolini you can use a round cookie cutter if you have one. The most useful sizes are 2 inches and 3 inches.

Ravioli tray

You can buy a special metal tray for making ravioli. A sheet of rolled- out dough is laid over the tray, then pressed into the indentations. The filling is then spooned into the indentations and another sheet of dough is placed on top. The ravioli squares are cut out by rolling a rolling pin over the serrated top. This is good for making very small ravioli, which are difficult and time-consuming to make individually. Sometimes the tray is sold as a set with its own small rolling pin, or as an accessory for a pasta machine.