January is also a good month for trying new things on the Ridge. I have been making my own pasta for years but a couple of my friends expressed interest in learning what I did, so we scheduled a pasta making day.
The purpose of our session today was to decide which pasta maker these ladies preferred, the manual Pasta Queen or the Kitchen Aid pasta attachment. We also tested a couple of different flours, Montana Wheat’s Prairie Gold Premium 100% whole wheat and a whole wheat pastry flour milled locally at Frankferd Farms. I would like to share with you our personal assessments.
My Pasta Queen is a manual machine and was purchased for me as a Christmas gift over 25 years ago. This brand is made in Italy and is all stainless steel. The pasta maker consists of a series of rollers and cutters in a single unit with a removable crank. The unit clamps on to a table top and is operated by the manual crank. By moving the crank from one slot to another, you are able to roll the pasta flat and cut two different sizes of pasta, a flat noodle and a thin spaghetti-like pasta. The starting price for this type of pasta maker is about $30-40. The price escalates with newer models because they have may include other attachments. I have tried the newer models but I prefer this simple one-piece design. The newer ones had removable attachments and they tended to fall off during the rolling process and for my money, didn’t add much value to the machine.
My Kitchen Aid pasta maker was a gift from my daughter and son-in-law last Christmas. The basic pasta maker is a set of three attachments: the roller, a flat noodle cutter and a thin spaghetti cutter. The attachments bolt to the front of the Kitchen Aid mixer and are powered by the mixer. The cost of these three pieces runs about $225.00. There are other pasta attachments available for an additional cost.
Both machines use the basic pasta recipe: 1 egg per approximately 1 cup of flour. We started our experiment by mixing 1 dozen eggs using the Kitchen Aid whisk, then we added Montana Wheat flour to batch #1 using the dough hook. With our second dozen eggs, we used FF Whole Wheat pastry flour. Using a bread knife, we cut the dough into manageable pieces about 3 to 4 inches in diameter and an inch thick. We dusted them lightly with flour and set them aside.
The results of our findings were as follows:
Pasta Queen received high marks for its ease of use. We liked the fact that the entire pasta process (rolling and cutting) could be accomplished just by moving the crank, unlike the Kitchen Aid which required us to remove each attachment and replace it with a new attachment for each step of the process. When I have used this previously, I solved this problem by rolling ALL of my pasta first and then changing pieces and doing all of the cutting second. It’s not really a deal breaker but does mean that you handle the dough more times.
We liked the sound of the old Pasta Queen, like the comforting squeak of Gramma’s old rocker. The Kitchen Aid has a high pitched whine that I find particularly annoying. We agreed that the Pasta Queen would be more family friendly as we could carry on a conversation as we rolled and cut noodles. And the added plus of no electric use was also considered.
As far as flours went, the Montana 100% wheat flour produced a smooth dough that we could roll easily with either machine. We were able to produce thinner sheets of dough and longer strands of noodles with this flour. Conversely, the FF whole wheat pastry flour made a coarse dough that crumbled when we tried to roll it. The addition of more egg helped somewhat, but the strands where short and choppy and we had trouble getting them thin enough.
At the end of the morning, we had filled my clothes drying rack with several sizes and textures of pasta…the taste test will have to wait for another day. But both ladies decided that for all of the Kitchen Aid’s bells and whistles, they preferred the basic old-fashioned Pasta Queen for making home made pasta. The Kitchen Aid just did not produce six times better results for its six times higher price tag.