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March/April 2017

Manual Pasta Machines

What separates a great pasta machine from one that’s just good?

How We Tested

You can roll fresh pasta with a rolling pin and cut it into noodles with a knife, but pasta machines make the process faster and easier and the results more uniform. Although electric models are becoming more common, hand-cranked pasta machines are still the most prevalent and affordable options on the market.

To use one, you anchor the base to a table or counter and then turn a crank to rotate two rollers, feeding the dough through them in order to flatten it. A knob on the side of the machine allows you to adjust the distance between the rollers and thus the thickness of your pasta sheet: You start with the widest (thickest) setting and progressively reduce the distance between the rollers until the dough reaches your desired thinness. Once the sheet of pasta is as thin as you want it to be, you can use it to make ravioli or other stuffed pasta; alternatively, you can cut it into either fettuccine or narrow, angel hair–like strands with the noodle-cutting attachment that comes standard with each of the machines.

While you can buy manual pasta machines in different sizes, those built to accommodate pasta sheets that are 150 millimeters (about 6 inches) across are the most common. So we bought four models priced from $32.75 to $69.25, using them to make fresh pasta sheets and then the cutting sheets into fettuccine and angel hair. We also ran pasta dough through all the settings on each model, measuring how thick the resulting sheets were at each stage.

All of the machines were simple to set up, and none of them budged after being clamped to the counter. Better still, they all produced great pasta. But small design differences made some easier to use than others. One machine required us to use both hands to turn the knob that adjusted the thickness of the pasta dough, a maneuver that slowed down the rolling-out process a bit. Another had a knob that didn’t quite align with the markings used to denote the thickness settings, making it hard to tell which setting was being used. We preferred models with knobs that could be turned with just one hand and that clearly indicated the thickness setting.

Some of the noodle-cutting attachments were also a bit problematic. Two had dull or misaligned blades that perforated the pasta sheets but didn’t always cut through them, requiring us to pull the noodles apart by hand afterward. A minor inconvenience but one we’d rather avoid.

Finally, we preferred models that could roll the dough out to a large range of possible thicknesses. The number of settings itself wasn’t critical, although some test cooks appreciated models that provided more options. It was more important that the models have rollers that could be adjusted to move both far apart (allowing us to insert thicker pieces of dough without flattening them out too much beforehand) and very close together (producing ultrathin sheets of pasta for ravioli).

Our favorite pasta machine, the Marcato Atlas 150 Wellness Pasta Machine, $69.25, is a real pleasure to use. It produced pasta with the greatest range of thicknesses, rolling out chunky ¼-inch sheets and paper-thin sheets with equal ease. And it effortlessly handled delicate gluten-free pasta dough. Its knob clearly indicated the thickness setting being used and could be turned with one hand; sharp attachment blades cut noodles precisely every time. If you’d prefer a less expensive option, the Imperia Pasta Machine by CucinaPro, $36.99, is our Best Buy. It offers a slightly narrower range of thicknesses (and to adjust those settings, you’ll need to use both hands), but it still makes beautiful pasta sheets and noodles.

Methodology

We tested four 150-millimeter manual pasta machines priced from $32.75 to $69.25, using them to make fresh pasta sheets, fettuccine, and angel hair. We also made fresh gluten-free pasta with our winning machine. We measured the thickness of a sheet of pasta as it passed through each thickness setting available on each model. Machines were evaluated on design features, including their knobs, attachments, and thickness settings. All models were purchased online, and they appear in order of preference.

KNOBS: We gave more points to machines with knobs that clearly indicated the thickness setting chosen and could be adjusted with only one hand.

NOODLE-CUTTING ATTACHMENT: Machines with attachments that had sharp, well-aligned blades cut noodles more cleanly and were awarded more points.

THICKNESS SETTINGS: We gave more points to machines with a wider range of thickness settings.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

$33.31*

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.