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What to Look for When Purchasing Your First Pasta Machine The manual pasta machine is a pretty straight forward piece of kitchen equipment. However the differences between models is usually apparent in the construction material and adaptability to make different shapes and sizes of pasta. The very basic machines do not offer more than a couple of different ways to roll out your pasta. That may not seem important now but when the pasta making bug catches you you will want to be more adventurous and want more shapes available to you. First make sure that the pasta machine that you purchase can accommodate additional attachments for making several different kinds of pasta. The company you are purchasing from should have a wide variety of these attachments available for purchase. The pasta machine should be made heavy metal that will wear well over time.
Some of the hollow or tubular pastas are elbow macaroni (most often used for macaroni and cheese or macaroni salad. Elbow macaroni usually comes in two sizes. The large size is great for casseroles and the smaller sizes are good used in soup such as minestrone or vegetable. Large width tubular pastas are ziti which again comes in several sizes penne rigatoni and cannelloni. Cannelloni are usually about 3 inches long and are served stuffed with a cheese or meat filling and topped with a marinara or meat sauce. The twisted pastas include Fusilli Bucati Gemeli Rotelli (Wagon Wheels). The twisted pastas are good for heavy sauces. Their shape will help to retain the sauce whereas with the smooth thin pastas the heavy sauces will just run off back into the plate. Fusilli are also nice for seafood pasta salads.
In order to flavor the twisted pastas for salads it is good to toss the pasta with the dressing just after draining. If you do this while the pasta is still warm they will absorb the flavor of the dressing and taste better. In addition to the twisted pastas there are shells which come in several sizes. The larger of the shells are great for stuffing with cheese or meat. They then can be served with marinara Bolognese or seafood sauce. The stuffed shells can also be arranged in a casserole covered with sauce and some mozzarella cheese and then baked. This type of dish is also great to make ahead freeze and the cook when needed. To cook a frozen pasta casserole place the whole thing while still frozen in a cold oven. Once the casserole is in the oven you can then turn the oven on to 350 degrees and let it cook.