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Last night I was watching Jamies Kitchen and the ease at which he passed the pasta through the machine was sickening. It was smoothe and silky and well, nothing like mine!
This pasta machine is a manual machine that consists of a main unit, an attachment to make tagliatelli and spaghetti with, a handle to turn the rollers with and a clamp to keep it still. Mine was a present but I believe they cost in the region of £20 - £30, and tend to be sold mainly at christmas.
Let me review the negative points first. The clamp does not fit my work surfaces (which are fairly standard ones) it is not realistic to use a board because part of it would need to hang over the edge to keep it flat and I am not going to use the dining room table. So I don't bother with the clamp which means I have to concentrate on keeping it still whilst rolling out the pasta. To roll the pasta you gradually decrease the size of the gap between the rollers, this is fine when it is on the larger spaces but the smaller one are quite tricky to set properly. It also seems to be a two person job, one to feed it into the machine and one to turn the handle and make sure it stays flat coming out the other end otherwise it collects in a heap, sticks to itself and needs rolling again.
Now the good points - absolutely great tasting pasta, I know you can buy it in the supermarkets now but that is comparatively quite expensive and doesn't taste as good, because it is nowhere near as fresh. Also making it at home you know exactly what is in it from an additives point of view. Cleaning is also very easy, you just wipe off the flour and any dough then brush anything that moves with olive oil.
The recipe I use is an Austailian one from one of those Womans weekly cookery books. The recipe says 2 cups of plain flour to 3 eggs, I find this makes a bit too much so I use 1 and a bit cups of flour to 2 eggs then add more flour if necessary. Then mix it together, the book suggests by hand but that is a bit too messy so I mix together with a knife then kneed it by hand. Let it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes this makes a huge difference to how easy it is to roll. You then roll it through the machine to make whatever you want I tend to stick with Lasagna because to make spaghetti you first make Lasagna then pass it through the spaghetti attachment, and at the end of the day laziness prevails.
The other great advantage of homemade pasta is adding your own flavourings, mixing in cooked spinach gives the green lasagna verdi, you can add beetroot to give red pasta (I've not tried that one) and my favourite is to add dried herbs at the kneeding stage which tastes really delicious. Another suggestion in the book that I haven't tried is sweet pasta, replace the full quantity of flour with icing sugar, then they served it with a raspberry sauce which looked really good - must try it one day!
In conclusion, this isn't the easiest or the most used kitchen appliance I have and I must admit in view of the extra time involved in making it I tend to only do it if we have visitors. However the pasta tastes amazing and I always do have lots of compliments when I do make the effort. If you are considering going into pasta making big time I would suggest you look at the electric ones but this is a nice toy to play with from time to time.