I've been interested in making homemade pasta for awhile and went ahead and ordered the Atlas pasta machine. I'm new to making pasta, but I've read and seen the basics. Are there any tips and tricks or guides you would recommend to a newbie delving into Italian cuisine with a new Atlas pasta maker? I read a thread in which BDL said that homemade pasta isn't always better than store bought. Are there any particular pastas that would showcase the homemade version better and vice versa, what pastas should you avoid the hassle of homemade and just buy the store bought.
New to pasta machines
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I have a similar setup using the kitchenaid mixer attachments that are for rolling pasta dough and cutting fettuccine and spaghetti. The first tip I have is to use semolina flour, find a good recipe for semolina pasta dough. After mixing it and letting it rest a little, you need to achieve a dough that is very elastic. It needs to have some real pull to it almost like a rubber band. This is more important from my experience when you plan to cut strands of pasta. The way I learned to achieve that is using the roller at a wide setting.. run it through a couple times then double the pasta over itself and roll again. Repeat this process a number of times until you get the desired elasticity.
Personally I enjoy fresh pasta for nearly any type but where I feel homemade pasta is an absolute necessity is for ravioli. using the fresh pasta you have a lot of freedom in the size and shape of your finished ravioli and other than using something like wonton sheets from the store, you really don't have any other option than fresh. Another benefit for making fresh pasta is that you can experiment by incorporating various ingredients directly into the dough. You could have a mushroom puree, basil puree, carrot juice, on and on. I just think fresh pasta really opens doors for having more fun with pasta. Good luck!
I dint recommend electric machines for the beginner. A pasta won't roll out perfectly unless the dough is right. If the dough isn't right, it's not wasted but it's going to need some time and patients, which means SLOWLY cranking it slowly through a roller, not forcing it through an electric machine. I actually under-kneed mine on purpose, knowing I'm going to role it through the crank and be unhappy with it, fold it, re-roll, fold, re-roll, until I've got a really nice consistent sheet of dough. I taught myself to make pasta years ago, when I got my pasta roller as a gift. try it a few times. You'll never be good at it until you know what the dough is supposed to be like, and you'll never know what it's supposed to be like until you've succeeded and failed at rolling it a few times. Here's a damn good tutorial to start you off. If you dont have any cutting "guitars" or rollers, using a knife works just fine.
Scratch the recipe. I've got a simpler one. 1 egg per person you're serving, and just under 1c of flower. start with half and add gradually as you kneed until the texture is described in this video.
Using similar ingredients, dried, aged (high quality) pasta has more taste and a chewier texture. Fresh pasta is more tender and... well... fresher. It's also a bit more delicate. One isn't better than the other, they're just different.
Sometimes I prefer one over the other just for the variety, sometimes I don't want to go through the whole rigamorole of making my own, and sometimes I want a particular texture. Also, sometimes I want extruded pasta shapes instead of rolled. I almost always prefer fresh, homemade for ravioli. Because fresh doesn't fill up with water from pre-cooking, it's extra thirsty for sauce and makes for killer lasagna. Otherwise, I think store-bought (or at least dried and aged) pasta retains more of its own integrity, especially with the strong sauces we usually associate with Italian cooking.
Simple hard flour, egg pastas work best for fresh, home-made, home rolled pasta. Hand mixing ("volcano method") and kneading is usually better than using a machine. If you must add flavor components like tomato, spinach, mushroom, or whatever, keep a very close eye on moisture content. Whole wheat pasta doughs tend to be very fragile. Save them until you've developed a fair bit of touch.
Try to allow some resting time between mixing and kneading and starting the rolling process. You need your dough to be well kneaded so it will be elastic enough to survive and benefit from the machine rolling process. On the other hand, you need it sufficiently relaxed that the rolling process doesn't make the dough too tough.
I've done hand rolling (with a pin), used a hand cranked machine (an Atlas), an Atlas with its own motor, and am currently using the KA attachment. In my opinion and experience, electronically driven rollers are a great deam more beginner friendly than either a pin (which requiries a lot of touch); or a hand crank, which requires some left-hand/right-hand coordination.
Thanks for the information guys and I've come up with a few more. When doing the initial roll through the machine, I've read that the pasta needs to be dusted with flour folded and run through a few times. What is the purpose and when do I know when I can start rolling the dough thinner? I know I can use all-purpose flour, but I want to try and find 00 flour or semolina flour and the common grocery stores that I checked (HEB and Walmart) don't carry anything like that. Where can I find 00 flour or semolina?
Extra flour acts as a "dry lube" to keep the dough from sticking to the rollers. If you do get sticking as you go, it's a good idea to flour both the rollers and the dough.
Running the dough through the wide setting a few times insures that the dough is completely homogenous; also that the glutens are stretched, making the dough very elastic, able to go through the tighter rollers without tearing or other damage, and not have a tendency to spring back to thicker after being thinned.
I usually run the dough through each setting twice, skipping a setting as I go thinner and thinner. That is, I always start at the widest setting and run the dough through it as many times as necessary to get it smooth and elastic (usually twice); then only use the odd or even settings... depending on where I want to finish.
Unless it's really hard (like King Arthur) AP flour is usually too soft for good pasta. If you're not going to search out semolina or 00, go with bread flour. I like to mix bread and semolina 50/50. You can get semolina and/or 00 at well-stocked Italian delis or Italian specialty markets. Or, you can spend a lot of money at places like Whole Paycheck, errr, Whole Foods.
I don't want to highjack the thread but I have a question.
I have made fresh pasta in the past and that worked great.
I got as a gift a pasta drying rack:
The thing is, I really don't know what to do with this. I tried leaving my pastas on it for about 10 hours, but when I came back, they were fragile and would easily break.
To be honest, I don't really understand what the purpose of this rack exactly is... why making fresh pastas just to dry them?
Also, if I somehow achieve to dry my pastas correctly, how much time do I have to eat them (I use a standard flour+eggs recipe)?
Thanks a lot and sorry for the bad English.
Great advice guys...wish I had this post when I was first starting out!
pcieluck has posted my go to recipe (though I usually add a pinch of salt, also), though I'm really wanting to do bdl's 50/50 with that same ratio...
My only tips are these:
when you think you need to add water, you probably don't
and as my italian teacher used to tell me--if you don't have a trickle of sweat running down your back, you're probably not doing it right...
MaxChart--that's the rack I use...not perfect but it's compact and works well enough for my home needs...I usually make the pasta in the afternoon and dry on the rack until the evening meal...(and the insert on the top comes in handy too...)
MaxChart.. while you could completely dry your fresh pasta, that is not really what that rack is for in my opinion. It has more to do with allowing you to place the strands evenly in such a way they will not bind together, while you continue to work the remaining dough to create whatever cut pasta you are working on. I am only speaking from un-educated experience, but I certainly found it necessary to have something to hold the long strands of fettucini I was cutting as I made them.. I think that would be much more important with delicate spaghetti. Luckily I had a couple pasta racks laying around!
In all seriousness that worked for my small batch. Allowing them to rest on the racks simply keeps the strands separate, and what would usually be a short term drying process should just assist a little when you drop them in the boiling water, to keep them separate. Someone correct me if I'm wrong but that was my take.