It’s fair to say that pasta – the proper, handmade, truly Italian sort – is having a moment.
We can’t keep up with the number of new fresh pasta restaurants opening, and as our knowledge and appreciation of traditional pasta shapes and authentic sauces grows, many of us are keen to recreate some silky, carby deliciousness at home.
Andrew Macleod, founder of Emilia’s Crafted Pasta restaurants in east London, says there’s no reason why you shouldn’t give it a go.
“I would suggest starting with just getting the dough right. When making sheets of egg pasta the number one thing is to be careful it doesn’t dry out; when you’re done rolling always cover it and put it in the fridge,” he says.
“After that then some of the easier shapes are farfalle, tagliatelle and ravioli. Then, if you want to challenge yourself further then try tortellini and gnocchi. Gnocchi is easiest to make at home with a ridged wooden board – it’s far better to use than a fork to get the ridges on the gnocchi. I’d also recommend Marcato which is quite good for homemade ravioli in small quantities with limited kitchen space. If you want to add colour to your pasta, then you can try spinach, beetroot or squid ink pasta.”
With that in mind, we dug out our most reliable pasta dough recipe (we rate Trullo’s which is 10 yolks to 200g double zero) and got rolling.
We tested each machine as the instructions recommended and put them through their paces where applicable with thick dough to work through right down to the thinnest end result.
We made everything from pappardelle to tagliatelle, to goats cheese ravioli and pan fried gnocchi – and a lot of egg white omelettes and meringues in the process too.
Here’s our edit of the best gear to make your pasta dreams come true.
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KitchenAid 5KSMPRA food mixer attachment pasta maker
This is an attachment for the KitchenAid – a pricey stand mixer usually high on keen cooks wishlist – and it transformed the pasta making process for us. This one comes with three separate pieces of kit: the basic pasta roller, a spaghetti cutter and a fettuccine cutter which each slot into the front end of the KitchenAid and lock into place. Start with the pasta roller, set the speed on a low setting, start with the widest setting (there are eight) gradually working towards the lowest and in minutes you’ll have perfectly paper thin sheets of pasta. If you require spaghetti or fettuccine you can swap the attachment. We loved the fact that our hands were completely free with no handles to turn; it speeded the whole process up and meant we could feed the pasta through more evenly. The height is also easier to deal with than worktop level, we found. Expensive, but worth it if you like making pasta.
Buy now £154.99, Argos
Marcato ravioli tablet
This was recommended by Andrew and we can see why. It’s a seriously smart, chic piece of pasta making kit that should equip you with the means to make 10 ravioli in a few minutes. You’ll need a standard pasta maker or a lengthy rolling-out session first, but when your dough is thin enough roll it across the floured tablet, pressing into the mould. Fill with your choice of stuffing (we liked the smoked salmon ricotta, suggested in the book) before laying another length of pasta to close the ravioli. Roll the metal rolling pin across to cut the ravioli out – the rolling pin has revolving handles for more comfortable and efficient rolling – we found the ravioli turned out easily thanks to the removable plastic tray topper. This is a good quality ravioli kit and the book provided is really useful.
Buy now £53.00, Amazon
Cast aluminium ravioli tray with rolling pin
A more budget-friendly version of the snazzy Marcato tablet, this is a basic ravioli tray that allows you to whip up a dozen foolproof filled pasta with very little effort. This tray is non-stick and has a rough surface which means it really doesn’t stick even without flour. Simply roll your pasta sheet across the tray, press in your fillings then cover with a second sheet and roll firmly across with the wooden rolling pin provided. The serrated edges of this ravioli press are harder and sharper than the Marcato, so the ravioli cut easily and each square lifts out of the tray without trouble. The fact this tray holds 12 instead of 10 is useful if cooking for a few.
Lakeland is currently not accepting orders.
Buy now £17.99, Amazon
Pasta Evangelists Italian pasta making six piece kit
For anyone looking for a gift for the pasta lover in their life, this artisanal one from Pasta Evangelists is a great option. Comprising a beechwood rolling pin, straight pasta cutter, ridged gnocchi maker, square ravioli stamp and that all-important double zero flour, plus Italian sea salt crystals, this starter kit has everything you need to get to grips with the art of pasta making the traditional way. There are instructions, tips and ravioli and gnocchi recipes from Pasta Evangelists’ Roman chef to help you on your way and you’ll be knocking up authentic filled pastas and homemade fluffy gnocchi before you know it (and working up a bit of a sweat along the way).
Buy now £25.00, Not on the High Street
Lakeland 5 piece pasta making set
Traditionalists will enjoy this hands-on set. Again, you’ll need to put in the legwork to get the pasta dough to a workable place first, but then you can use these sweet wooden tools to create a range of authentic Italian pasta shapes from scratch. Included in the kit is a farfalle rolling cutter, a crinkle cut wheel cutter, a round and a square ravioli cutter and a pappardelle rolling pin that cuts and scores wide ribbons of pasta from rolled out dough. We struggled to make the pappardelle rolling pin work for us, so do ensure your pasta is super-thin and use plenty of elbow grease, but we found making little farfalle extremely easy, effective and satisfying.
Lakeland is currently not accepting orders.
Buy now £29.99, Lakeland
ProCook pasta maker
Most pasta makers are a much of muchness and this is a good example of a standard, does-what-it-says-on-the-tin version. It’s fairly weighty – which we find to be a good thing in terms of keeping the machine in place – and is made from the usual shiny chrome with a straightforward pasta roller and separate attachment for cutting tagliatelle or linguine. It’s easy to set up, requiring only to be clamped onto the worktop and the handle inserted into the roller. The cutter slides in should you require (ours required a bit of jiggling). There are eight thickness settings on this one allowing you to go from roughly rolled dough to parchment-thin in around five minutes.
Buy now £25.00, ProCook
AEG AUMPR ultramix pasta roller accessory
This is an attachment for the Ultramix stand mixer, another lusted-after kitchen gadget for keen cooks. The price difference compared to the KitchenAid attachment simply reflects that this is for the pasta roller alone as no cutter attachments are included in this product; ideal if you prefer to make your shapes by hand or with handheld cutters and tools. Again, this fits onto the front of your machine using a standard K-attachment (we were able to use it on the KitchenAid and expect it to be compatible with other brands too). The roller is Italian-made using lightweight aluminium anodised for durability and is finished with shiny chromed steel. It locks in easily then you’re good to go: smooth, even sheets of fine pasta will be yours in a minute or two as you easily move down the nine thickness levels.
Buy now £71.99, AEG
KitchenCraft deluxe double cutter pasta machine
Another standard pasta maker here that was easy to fit together and a breeze to use. It’s lighter than the ProCook pasta maker but stayed sturdy on the work surface – the handle was slightly more secure too even when working quickly. It says it can process pasta from 9in thick, so handled our 2 inch thick dough easily, providing long sheets of perfect, uniform pasta once fed through the decreasing levels though not the thinnest end result we’ve seen so you may like to roll out further for ravioli. We thought the detailed instruction book and recipes were handy too. A great value useful product.
Buy now £29.99, Amazon
The verdict: Pasta makers
After years of using a clunky old pasta maker, the KitchenAid pasta maker and Ultramix pasta roller attachments revolutionised our pasta making so they both get our vote for all-round ease, convenience and amazing results.
But some people may feel like this is slightly cheating; after all, making pasta is an art form and there is certainly a lot of pride and satisfaction to be gained by doing it like the Nonnas do. In which case, we’ll point you towards the Pasta Evangelists kit and Lakeland multi-piece sets which will allow you to make endless shapes while retaining that rustic, handmade feeling. Now all you need to decide is what sauce to knock up to best show off your hard work: buon appetito!