I have been making egg noodles for years and years, but extruded pasta has recently become an unexpected addition to my “making from scratch” repertoire. We don’t eat a lot of pasta, but some of our favorite “comfort foods” are pasta based and need the variety of pasta shapes to taste the way they should. So although making extruded pasta wasn’t really something I wanted to add to my list of things I HAVE to do on a regular basis… once again the manufacturers’ addition of soy made the decision for me.
I spent a considerable amount of time looking for a pasta extruder. I thought I wanted an electric model for convenience… the type where the machine mixes the dough and extrudes the pasta shapes automatically… but I also wanted it to make better pasta than the machine I purchased and returned several years ago. I read reviews and found that the newer machines apparently have the same limitations and problems… unless I was willing (and I was not) to pay several thousand dollars for the “professional” models that were getting rave reviews.
Then quite by accident I came across a recommendation for an inexpensive, no-frills, hand-cranked pasta extruder that almost all of the reviewers seemed to like… a lot. The only negative seemed to be that it takes a bit of muscle to turn the crank. We didn’t think that would be a problem for us, and happily it isn’t. Our little pasta extruder works wonderfully well. It has five different dies to make five different shapes of pasta. We can make fusilli (the spiral in the top photograph), large and small macaroni, rigatoni, and hollow spaghetti, and we can make the pasta from any recipe we choose… unlike some of the electric extruders that only work with one specific recipe. We especially like the hollow spaghetti, both as long spaghetti and cut into lengths for longish elbows.
I mix the dough for the pasta in the food processor, choose the die for the type of pasta shape I want to make, and push small portions of dough down into the hopper while someone else turns the crank. When the extruding pasta has reached the desired length, I use a sharp knife to make a sweeping cut downward. The finished pasta falls onto my glass cutting board that I have lightly dusted with flour. We have found we can make all the pasta the same length by turning the crank a certain number of times before making the cut.
Obviously making pasta isn’t as easy as just opening a package or box, and making one batch just before a meal doesn’t really work well for me. Recently we’ve been making several batches at a time and extruding different types, usually making four two-pound batches at a session. We freeze the fresh pasta in meal or recipe-sized portions. Having pasta waiting in the freezer has really helped bring back the convenience of a quick pasta meal.
Enough is enough, though… four batches of pasta is really about as much cranking as is fun to do!