I hadn’t made homemade pasta in years, but when I was offered a KitchenAid Pasta Press as a sample, I was anxious to test drive the accessory. Made in Italy, the heavy duty pasta press fits on all KitchenAid stand mixers and allows home cooks to crank out tubular pastas such as rigatoni, bucatini, macaroni, fusilli, and spaghetti.
After multiple rounds of experimentation in my home kitchen, I’ve concluded that the KitchenAid accessory is awesome. I’ve also concluded that it is important for cooks to experiment and follow their intuition when making homemade pasta dough.
For my first round of experimentation, I decided to get everyone involved. I think of pasta as a family-friendly food, so I invited my mother-in-law over to work with me and told the children that we’d be making pasta for the afternoon.
To get started, I readied my sixteen-year old KitchenAid Classic mixer and cleared the countertop. I then opened the pasta press box and reached for the owner’s manual. I followed the assembly instructions and decided to make the Basic Egg Noodle Pasta, which is the first recipe listed in the recipe section of the booklet. The dough is made in the bowl of the stand mixer and calls for 4 large eggs, 3 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon water, and 1 teaspoon salt.
My mother-in-law has used the pasta press accessory before and warned me not to make the dough too wet or it would be difficult to feed through the disks. Hence, I followed the booklet recipe exactly. When I was mixing the dough in the KitchenAid, we sensed it was too dry, but we carried on as instructed. When I kneaded the dough by hand on the counter, it still seemed dry, but it was fairly manageable.
The press comes with six disks—rigatoni, fusilli, spaghetti, bucatini, large macaroni, and small macaroni. I was in the mood for a rigatoni, so we started with that one. As instructed by the manual, we formed the pasta dough into walnut-sized pieces and fed it through the press while the machine was running. It was slow at first. My mother-in-law eventually figured out that if she added a little water to her hands and rolled the dough in her wet palms, the dough seemed to feed through better. Prior to that, the machine seemed like it was clogging and the dough wasn’t feeding through easily enough. We sensed that the issue was with the dough and not with the press itself.
We made rigatoni and fusilli that day. Even though my dough was a little too stiff and dry, the pasta was very good once it was cooked. Nonetheless, I wasn’t fully satisfied with the dough and the way in which it fed through the machine. I sensed that the dough and the extrusion process could be better.
So, the next day I woke up early with a bee in my bonnet. I wanted a better dough –a dough that was easier to feed through the press and that felt more malleable. On a mission, I ferreted through my cookbook collection and found the perfect recipe in Beard on Pasta by James Beard. Published by Knopf, the book is a treasure trove of information on pasta. On page 33 in my 1987 edition, I found Beard’s recipe for Basic Egg Pasta. I immediately knew that was the one.
The recipe only calls for four ingredients—1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, ½ teaspoon salt, 2 large eggs, and 1 tablespoon oil if using the electric mixer or the food processor. Indeed, when I made the dough in the bowl of my KitchenAid, it felt right. It was malleable yet substantial. (When I was putting it in the fridge to “relax” as directed in the recipe, I had a brief flashback to my childhood, because the dough felt just like Play-Doh!) After I chilled it and broke off walnut-sized pieces, the dough fed through the machine like butter and held its shape once it was formed. I made bucatini that night. The long tubular pasta was sublime. I think the chilling of the dough and the little bit of oil made the difference in the finished product.
So, if you purchase the new KitchenAid Pasta Press, my advice to you is this: Loosen up. Have some fun. Try different recipes. Be prepared for a little trial and error. Invite your friends over for a pasta making party. Make the dough in advance and let it relax in the fridge before you get started. Set the table and enjoy some really delicious homemade tubular pasta made right in your own home!
Do you have any tips for making homemade pasta? If so, I’d love to hear them, because I am still tweaking, experimenting, and hunting for new ideas!
Photo by Carolyn B. Trainer
–Melissa A. Trainer