Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Pasta-Making Newbie

A few months ago, I attempted to make ravioli by hand. It was a complete failure. I didn't have a pasta machine, and I was unable to roll the dough thin enough by hand, so I ended up with thick, doughy, not-at-all-cooked-through ravioli. I was discouraged for awhile and abandoned all thoughts of glorious homemade pasta. (Instead, I'd settled on many occasions for someone else's homemade pasta - Dave's Fresh Pasta - which really can't be considered "settling". That stuff is amazing, and I could easily live on it. Plus, Dave sometimes carries the-best-cupcakes-in-the-world from The Chocolate Tarte.)

Recently, I got an email from CSN Stores - an online megamart for home, office, and school supplies/decor/appliances/whatever-else-you-may-need - asking if I'd be interested in reviewing a product of my choosing. I just moved into a new apartment, so I couldn't say no to a free kitchen appliance. I was given an $80 gift certificate to pick anything from their 200+ stores. After a long ice cream vs. pasta debate, I settled on a pasta machine. Time to give it another try!

I scanned the selection and settled on the CucinaPro Pasta Fresh 5 Machine, which is conveniently $79.99, plus free shipping. (Note: It appears to be out of stock at the moment.) The "5" refers to the five different types of pasta that it can make with the included attachments: angel hair, spaghetti, fettuccine, lasagnette, and ravioli (very small ones).

Complaint #1: Worst. Manual. Ever. This thing is full of typos and awkward wording, although I do appreciate the redundant reminders that cooking is great because you can "eat your mistakes." There are no assembly instructions, just vague pasta-making instructions. As a total newbie, I had no clue what to do with the various pieces of the pasta-making machine. In the image on the box, the attachments are spread out around the machine, so it took some time to realize how the attachments actually attached.  I'm still a bit baffled by the ravioli attachment; that one will take some extra work.

Complaint #2: The clamp and the crank are a bit finicky as well. They don't lock into anything tightly, they just sort of balance on a lip. The whole apparatus feels a little shaky while it is in pieces. Once my roommate, Deb, and I finally figured out how to assemble and clamp it, though, it felt sturdy.

First, we sent some paper towels through to clean it out.
Clamped securely to the table! The leftmost part is the fettuccine/angel hair attachment.
Well, if pasta doesn't work out, this thing could have a second life as a paper shredder...
Mmmm...paper fettuccine!
Once it seemed to be in working order, it was time to think about the dough. Ignoring the manual, I consulted my Essential Pasta cookbook, which was a total bargain at Borders a few years ago. (I have a couple others from the series - Essential Fingerfood and Essential Seafood - that are very helpful. They all feature beautiful color glossaries, many easy to intermediate recipes, and other useful information.)

First: the magic flour/egg well.
Success! Minimal egg-al leakage!
Next: the mixing of the dough, which I found a bit tricky. I think I mixed in too much flour too quickly.
Almost ready to knead...
Finally: the kneading. The cookbook told me to knead for at least six minutes and to look for slightly glossy dough. Here it is, almost ready to rest:
Ever so slightly glossy!
I let it rest for a half hour, and then it was time to attempt to use the machine. I split the dough into quarters. The first quarter was a bit messy as the dough teared near the end on the last roll through the machine.
First attempt!
For the rest, I made sure to use flour liberally, and there was a lot less sticking and a lot more pretty pasta.
Second attempt!
Deb, who does much more cooking than me, was a lovely sous chef and very neatly untangled the fettuccine strands as I worked with the remainder of the dough.
Neat little piles of fresh pasta, ready to be plunged into boiling water.
We let the pasta sit for awhile and made a simple tomato sauce with sliced chorizo and onions - a recipe from the same cookbook.
If only you could smell this through your computer/iPad/whatever...
I also attempted to make a topping of crispy basil. I had many fails before I came up with three somewhat usable leaves by sheer luck.
Crispy basil FAIL.
Finally, we ate!
Fettuccine with chorizo and crispy basil
I'd say it was pretty successful!

As for the pasta machine, after the initial difficulties, I was actually very satisfied with its performance. I can't say anything about the other four types of pasta yet, but the fettuccine was relatively easy to make. The thickness seemed appropriate, and it wasn't too hard to avoid tearing the dough. For 80 bucks, this thing is a good deal. I've never used another pasta machine, so I really have no basis for comparison, but I'd certainly recommend this one to a friend...along with some helpful assembly tips.

Disclaimer: As noted above, I received an $80 gift certificate from CSN to put towards the purchase of a product of my choice to review. I did not receive any other compensation. All reviews on Fork it over, Boston! are my honest and complete opinion, regardless of the cost or lack thereof of the product, restaurant, or service. Receiving products, food, or services for free or at a discount does not obligate me to write a positive review or any review at all. All products, food, drink, or services received for free or at a discount are noted.


  1. Nice!

    For pasta dough, I tend to go with the rule of thumb of two eggs to a cup of flour, and extra water as necessary.

    I also knead for closer to ten minutes, and stop when the dough has a smooth, almost skin-like texture. (I know, it sounds creepy, but that's really what it feels like.)

  2. Oooh, skin...I'll keep that in mind next time! Hehe :)

  3. I've never made pasta before and I'm definitely intimidated by the whole process but yours came out beautifully!

  4. I made my own ravioli when I first got my pasta machine, but I haven't taken it out again. I do plan to try my hand at making pasta again this fall. I think you did a great job! My pasta machine is an Imperia pasta machine... it works pretty well but is a bit finicky too. Love the crisped basil leaf!

  5. @Michelle - Thanks! It ended up tasting pretty good :) It was really pretty simple once I got the hang of it...and I'm pretty useless in the kitchen (but learning!) you should definitely give it a try!

    @Megan - I think fall is a perfect time for homemade pasta! Low humidity, a craving for comfort food...mmmm! The basil was kind of a disaster, but I'm going to give it another try some time!

  6. Love this post! Your pasta looks so good, fresh pasta is the best and I love Dave's Pasta too! Thanks for making my crave it right now. I'm still working on getting over to the Chocolate Tarte for a cupcake!

  7. Sooo glad I moved to Somerville...I can now walk to Dave's and Chocolate Tarte! Soon I'm going to weigh 5000 pounds.


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