First and foremost, I must point out the fact that you do not need a pasta maker to make pasta at home. Most top chefs make their pasta without a machine, but you most likely aren’t a top chef and using a machine is both fun and time-saving. I would go on and say it’s also easier, but the true experts may not agree with that statement.
The prices of pasta makers vary a lot with the lower-end models being anywhere around twenty bucks to the more advanced models that sell for a couple of hundred dollars.
They are obviously not the same in build or function. Read on as I explain the different kinds and some facts about the machines that would help you make the right decision for your specific needs.
I must add that I personally use one that cost me around 25 Euros, a manual machine I bought on my trip to Milan for a conference. It just makes pasta sheets and two kinds of pasta. However, before buying this, I spent a few hours doing my research on the different kinds of stand-alone machines and attachments.
This is exactly what I have, but I am no good at presentation and pictures. I'm glad to have easily found this on an open source image platform. A link to what is a similar model to the one I bought in Italy is found below for those interested.
Some low-end pasta makers have plastic parts that make them both lighter and cheaper. These are fine for home use as long as the roller is metal. Never buy a pasta machine whose roller itself is made of plastic. It’s going to take a lot of effort on your end to get uniform sheets of the desired thickness.
A step up is the metal pasta maker, but two kinds are prominent, those with stainless steel parts and those with chrome-plated steel components.
There are two main differences here. Chrome-plated pasta makers typically have an extra shine to them, but I’m pretty sure there are also going to be matt-finish chrome-plated pasta makers somewhere out there. The other difference, the more important one is that you do not have to worry about rust if you get yourself a stainless steel machine.
This is the reason I bought myself a stainless steel full metal pasta maker. The lever I use to roll the pasta through has an orange plastic knob. I wouldn’t want it any other way. A wooden handle would probably look good, but my pasta maker is not out on display. This one seems to be a replica of what I use and it's also at a similar price.
You have the option to either buy a manual pasta maker and cutter or an electrically operated machine. There needs to be no further explanation here.
I use a manual machine that consists of the rollers, the cutter, the knob to control the thickness, a clamp to attach it to a table or counter and finally the lever I already mentioned.
Manual Pasta Makers
I’m going to have to be corrected if I am wrong, but during my research, I noticed that all the manual pasta rollers and cutters come with clamps that hold the machine steady allowing you to pass the pasta through the roller or cutter. This is why they are also often referred to as counter-top pasta makers. There are also manual pasta presses where you manually force the dough through molds to make pasta of the desired shape/thickness.
Electric Pasta Machines and Attachments
There’s a lot of variety here. You’d find complete stand-alone machines for the purpose or you could alternatively find attachments that go together with stand mixers, such as the Kitchenaid pasta maker attachment.
To further distinguish them, some machines get the entire job done; right from preparing the dough for you to pushing out the dough through molds whereas there are others where you make the dough yourself and pass it through rollers and cutters or a mold.
Electric pasta machines and attachments are typically a lot more expensive than their manual counterparts which comes as no real surprise.
It is, therefore, my suggestion that you get yourself a manual pasta machine if you are only going to use it occasionally or if you are looking to make an activity out of it. Also, keep in mind that an electric machine is typically larger than the manual alternative in case storage is important to you.
Good luck with whatever you decide to go with and more importantly have fun with it. I enjoy making pasta myself and I tend to do it with a few friends every other month. One of them gifted me a pasta drying rack which is pretty neat. But it is not something you need. Before you proceed further with some general tips that you probably already know, I'd like to point you in the direction of my guide on fresh pasta cooking times.
Things to Keep in Mind When Buying a Pasta Maker
Now that you know a bit about the different kinds of pasta makers out there, let’s dive into some of the important considerations that you need to keep in mind when buying a pasta maker:
Width of the Feed
If you’re buying a pasta roller, you’re going to want to pay attention to the width of the feed. It’s not really important if all you want to do is make pasta. But if you buy one that is broad, you could also use it to roll out different kinds of pastries. Also, keep in mind the different thickness possible (rotation of the knob) if you plan on using it for multiple purposes.
The Clamp and Your Kitchen
As already mentioned, most if not all manual pasta rollers need to be clamped onto a surface. This keeps it steady when you roll the dough through. Heavy machines are going to be more stable, there’s no doubt about that. But keep in mind that no matter how heavy it is, if it is not firmly secured it’s going to wobble and make the process difficult.
Secondly, you’re going to want to make sure that your counter has a lip where you can clamp the device or a table which you wouldn’t mind using (it may leave some marks. Mine does not because the wood is tough and my clamp is not that strong).