Anyone who’s ever tasted fresh pasta knows there’s no way that a box of store-bought spaghetti can compare with home-made pasta.
Making your own isn’t always the right choice, however. When you get home from a long day of work, you may not be up for pulling out the pasta machine, preparing the dough and creating a meal fit for an Italian gourmet.
If you have the time, though – and the more often you use a machine, the less time it requires – you’ll be delighted that you spent 15 or 30 minutes making your own pasta from scratch. And the benefits are even greater for those who prefer specific styles or ingredients, or those with food allergies who have to be careful what they buy off the store shelves.
Once you’ve made your own pasta, chances are that you’ll be hooked on the delicious, fresh and authentic taste. You’ll probably also become a devotee of one of the two types of pasta machines: manual or automatic.
The Your House Garden review team loves fresh pasta, so we had a great time ranking the top 5 best pasta makers for you. Please find our detailed analysis and buying guide after the summary table below.
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Manual vs. Automatic Pasta Makers
Pros and Cons of Manual Pasta Makers
Those who want the true, time-tested Italian experience of creating pasta, or those who want the ultimate control over their finished product, prefer a manual pasta maker. If you don’t already own one, you’ve certainly seen them in movies; they’re the machines with a hand crank and a dial that lets you gradually decrease the thickness of the pasta each time you pass it through the rollers. Most also have an attachment that lets you cut your sheets of pasta into the desired shape once you’re done rolling.
It’s rewarding and fun to make pasta with a manual machine, but it can be a lot of work. Folding and rolling the dough through the machine multiple times while using one hand to crank, one hand to feed the dough and one hand to catch the rolled pasta requires some practice. (Oh, you only have two hands? That’s a shame.) Even finding a countertop that’s the right size for the machine’s clamp can be difficult in some kitchens. What’s more, a standard pasta maker and cutter will only create long shapes like fettuccini, tagliolini and lasagna sheets, although many manufacturers now offer optional accessories that will create spaghetti, capellini and even ravioli.
An outstanding manual machine will always be less expensive than a good automatic one and will last virtually forever, two very good arguments for going manual. However, if you think it will also make better pasta, think again. Most connoisseurs agree that properly-made pasta tastes the same whether it comes from a manual machine, or from an automatic machine that saves the cook both time and work. That’s the reason that even many upscale Italian restaurants have switched away from traditional manual pasta makers.
Pros and Cons of Automatic Pasta Makers
You don’t have to have seen an automatic pasta maker in action to know that it’s a whole lot easier to use than a manual machine. Most of the best modern automatic pasta makers even mix and knead the dough for you, before cutting and extruding your pasta ready for the pot. (A few units simply produce rolled pasta just like you’d get from a manual machine, but extruders deliver your pasta in your preferred shape.) It’s not unusual for an automatic machine to create perfect, delicious pasta in just 15 minutes. All you have to do is catch it as it comes out.
Two added bonuses: many of these pasta makers can create round shapes like penne and macaroni as well as the flat ones produced by manual machines, and some will also knead dough for other foods like pizza, biscuits and cakes. And a special bonus if you order now (just kidding): automatic machines are much easier to clean than manual ones, with the components often dishwasher safe. You’ll pay more for one of these pasta makers, but an increasing number of devoted pasta cooks are convinced the price is worth it.
Automatic and Manual Pasta Machines Combined
There are two other alternatives we’ll mention briefly. Some of the best manual pasta maker companies now sell optional motors that do away with hand cranking, and top-level stand mixers like Kitchen Aids can be fitted with optional pasta rollers and cutters that also eliminate the cranking process.
Other Pasta Maker Considerations
Additional factors that go into choosing the best pasta maker largely depend on the style you choose.
Manual Pasta Maker Buying Considerations
Manual pasta makers should be easy to attach to a counter or workspace and should be stable once they’re clamped; wobbly or easily-detached handles make work quite difficult, and the knob that regulates the pasta’s thickness should be easy to adjust. A manual machine will normally last for years, but experience shows that Italian manufacturers usually make the most durable models. And as already mentioned, the optional attachments available for different styles of pasta will determine how versatile your machine will be. Check to see how easy it is to clean, too.
Automatic Pasta Maker Buying Considerations
Your first decision in picking an automatic machine is whether you want a simple rolling machine, or like most people, you want a full-functioned one that mixes and kneads the dough before extruding your desired style ready for cooking. Quality and durability matters, as does the number and style of attachments or “shaping discs” that create the various shapes of pasta. Finally, consider the speed and size of the machine and whether the parts can be put into the dishwasher for easy cleanup.
Mangiamo (“let’s eat”). Here are Your House Garden’s reviews of the top 5 best pasta makers.
1. Marcato Atlas 150 Pasta Machine
While most of the review team has been converted to the convenience of automatic pasta machines, we’re still traditionalists at heart. That’s why we had to top our rankings with the gold standard of manual pasta makers, the Marcato 150. This Italian company has been making outstanding pasta machines for almost a century, and its stainless steel Atlas has an impeccable reputation. (There’s also a Marcato Atlas 180, which produces wider pasta).
Once you’ve committed to doing much of the work yourself, along with some trial-and-error in preparing the dough and working the machine (which you’d better be willing to do if you’re buying a manual pasta maker), you’ll find the Atlas a pleasure to use. You can choose from ten different thicknesses (0.6mm to 4.8mm) with the easy-to-operate selection knob, the unit clamps easily to most counters and remains stable throughout, and in a thoughtful design touch the rollers produce pasta with a slightly rough surface, so sauces will be absorbed easily.[youtube id=”YAEQKDvePiQ” width=”750″ height=”340″ position=”left”]
Like any manual machine the Marcato Atlas only makes flat pasta shapes, but 12 optional accessories give you options for making pasta in many other shapes and thicknesses. You can also attach the optional motor mentioned earlier, to save wear and tear on your elbow and shoulder. Marcato claims cleanup is easy with a dry cloth, but a great investment would be some canned air to blow any dough remnants or flour out of the works – never clean it with water, or you’ll end up with a rusted machine that invalidates the impressive ten-year warranty.
The Marcato Atlas is the best-known and best-loved manual pasta machine in the world, and has been for many years. That’s because it’s nearly perfect.
Facts and figures on the Marcato Atlas 150 Pasta Machine:
2. Philips HR2357/05 Avance Pasta Maker
When you’re buying a manual pasta machine, think Italian. For an automatic machine, think
Dutch – specifically, the Philips Avance. (Many people think of Philips as an American company, but it’s actually based in the Netherlands.) This powerful electric machine basically does all the work for you, and produces terrific pasta in as little as 20 minutes.
The HR2357/05 is full-featured with a food processor that mixes and kneads the dough, and an extruder that produces the pasta in your desired shape. The only work you have to do is adding your ingredients and cutting the finished pasta to your desired length, since it comes out in long strands or shapes. Some may not want to have to take that extra step, but it can actually be a positive because you can choose exactly how long you want your pasta to be.
This Philips model comes with four shaping discs: fettuccini, spaghetti, penne and lasagna, and you can purchase extra discs for thick spaghetti, tagliatelle, angel hair and pappardelle with more promised for the future. Our most important observation: no matter what shape you choose, the pasta comes out great. Many of the pasta maker’s parts can go right into the dishwasher, and there’s an included cleaning tool that you simply attach to the shaping discs to push out any remaining ingredients.
The Avance is a cleverly-designed and high-quality automatic pasta machine. You’ll pay four-to-five times more for it than for the manual Marcato – but for a machine that only requires you to add the ingredients and get your fresh pasta 15 minutes later, the extra price is well worth it.
Details on the Philips HR2357/05 Avance Pasta Maker:
3. Lello 2730 Pastamaster 3000 Pro Pastamaker
Here’s another automatic pasta maker that does just about everything for you, and it has several advantages over the Philips. It’s a little less expensive and it comes with eight pasta discs instead of four, so there’s need to spend extra for a “complete set.”
Like the Philips, you simply put the ingredients into the Lello machine and the dough is mixed and kneaded automatically, with the finished (and delicious) pasta emerging from the extruder only needing to be cut to your desired length. The manufacturer claims that you can make three pounds of pasta in 20 minutes, but there’s a good chance that much strain will overheat the machine (which thankfully has an auto-shutoff feature if it’s working too hard.) You’re better off starting with a smaller batch of dough and going from there.
The included extra discs allow you to make angel hair, linguine, macaroni, spaghetti and bucatini as well as the usual shapes like fettuccini and lasagna sheets, so the 2730 is a more versatile machine than the pricier Philips. One area where it falls short, though is in the quality of the discs. Each machine’s are made from plastic, but the Lello discs aren’t as rugged and are more likely to eventually break down. There are two more reasons the review team has ranked this pasta maker at #3 instead of #2; it’s trickier and requires more experimentation to get the mix of ingredients just right for smooth extrusion of pasta, and it’s a lot noisier.
The Lello 2730 is a well-constructed and versatile automatic pasta machine at a good price, but it may require quite a bit of trial-and-error before you can just dump in the ingredients and produce perfect pasta.
More info for the Lello 2730 Pastamaster 3000 Pro Pastamaker:
4. Imperia Model 150 Pasta Maker Machine
The team wanted to give you a second manual pasta maker choice, and as you might guess from our earlier comments, this one is also made in Italy. The Imperia is quite similar to the Marcato, with slightly fewer options and a lot cheaper. And if you’re wondering why they’re both labeled “Model 150” it’s not because they’re made by the same company; “150” refers to the width of the pasta sheets that are extruded.
Here’s what you “sacrifice” by opting for the cheaper Imperia: it has only 7 thickness settings instead of 10 so you can’t make your pasta quite as thin as with the Marcato; the rollers are made of steel instead of aluminum so over the long run it’s possible the steel could start to flake off into the pasta (Mercato has a patent on the aluminum rollers); the warranty runs for one year instead of ten; and although it’s well-built it doesn’t look quite as sharp as the Marcato despite its cool wooden crank handle. A motorized attachment is also available, as is an upgraded Model 190 which makes wider sheets.
Bottom line: the Imperia Model 150 turns out pasta just as good as the Marcato for a better price, but don’t expect it to be the only manual pasta maker you’ll ever have to buy.
More info for the Imperia Model 150 Pasta Maker Machine:
5. OxGord Pasta Maker Machine
At first glance, you might think this pasta machine is the Marcato Atlas. The stainless steel design is almost identical, and the controls are extremely similar (except for the cheaper yellow handle on the crank). The truth is that the OxGord is a knock-off, but a very good one– and it costs about 75% less than the time-honored Marcato.
There are nine selectable pasta thicknesses (compared to ten on the Atlas) and two blade attachments (compared to the wealth of choices with the Atlas). But you can still make delicious spaghetti, linguine, fettuccini and pasta sheets with the same traditional hand-cranking method, for a much smaller investment.
Then why doesYour House Garden list the Marcato at #1 and the OxGord at #5? It’s partly because our top-ranked model is sturdier and clamps better to the countertop, partly because the OxGord doesn’t offer optional motorized operation or the wide range of attachments to make other pasta shapes – and partly because the texture of pasta produced by the Marcato is slightly better.
Those are all small issues, though, for those who are looking for an inexpensive machine that lets them make pasta by hand. The OxGord Pasta Maker is a great value and it works exactly as you’d want it to.
Digging deeper on the OxGord Pasta Maker Machine:
Gourmia GPM500 Complete Electric Pasta Maker
* Unfortunately it looks like the Gourmia GPM500 might not be available right now, so please consider another pasta maker for now.
It’s possible to find a decent automatic pasta maker for a budget price, and here it is. (It comes with eight shape molds, but if you want to spend a bit more, you can upgrade to get an extra five molds.) The Gourmia has a couple of features that Your House Garden reviewers liked: you can choose to have the machine dry the pasta in addition to kneading and extruding it, and the pasta comes out vertically so there’s less of a chance of breakage when you “catch” it horizontally.
Here’s what we didn’t like: the machine’s small capacity and thin plastic build. You can only make about six ounces of pasta at a time and then the machine has to “rest” for 20 minutes before making a second batch. And its construction makes the Gourmia delicate (to put it nicely) or prone to breakage (to be more realistic). One other slight negative: this isn’t completely an automatic machine; after the kneading, you have to push a button for extrusion. There are seven discs for making linguini, fettuccini, spaghetti, penne, angel hair, macaroni and udon, and you can use the knead function to make other types of dough.
The Gourmia isn’t a bad choice for a small family on a budget, but won’t be enough machine for anyone else. This is a good case of “you get what you pay for.”
Specs for the Gourmia GPM500 Complete Electric Pasta Maker:
Once you have made all that homemade pasta you might then have the problem of what to do with the leftovers… a high-quality food vacuum sealer might be just what you need!