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Pasta Making


porcupine
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If any of you regularly make your own pasta, would you be willing to share a few tips? What flour do you use, how long do you work it, can you use a Kitchen Aid mixer with the dough hook, how do you roll it very thin, how do you get it to be really supple, how long do you let it rest...? and so on.

It's been about 20 years since I made my own, and honestly it wasn't that good. As far as I can recall, Mom made it with all purpose flour, eggs, and salt only, and rolled it with a pin (never used a machine). The only advice I remember from her is "do it when you're angry". :P

Yeah, I've consulted a lot of cookbooks, but I'd like a perspective from someone who does it a lot. Any help?

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Regular flour. A touch of Olive Oil.

Knead by hand (but don't overwork -- could be a problem if you use a mixer)

Rest 30 minutes

Little Atlas hand crank pasta machine that clamps to counter.

For stuffed pasta I generally cut with the pizza wheel.

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IIRC, I use a recipe of 3/4c AP flour, 1 egg, 1tsp. water. I mix it with a fork on a cutting board (make well in center of flour, add lightly beaten egg/water mix to well, kinda sorta mix it in [don't know how to explain this, I think I'm being really dumb here]). It will be tacky and you'll add more flour as you knead it to a loosely even looking, coherent dough. Wrap in saran wrap and let rest in fridge (umm, until you're ready to go back to it? No clear rules on that one for me, but I've certainly left it in overnight). One 'ball' will serve, IIRC, two adults small dinner sized portions of pasta (assuming you're forming linguine or something similar). Bigger than a 'side portion', but probably small as an entire entree.

I've never tried to make it in kitchenaid, I have used a food processor and that works pretty well. Although, if you have a large capacity bowl you'll probably need to double or triple recipe to get decent integration of ingredients. When I do it by hand I've never made more than one formula's worth at a time. It doesn't really take much time.

I have one of those Atlas pasta machines, so that's how I roll it out. It is possible to over work the dough, so it's sort of this balancing act between getting the dough to look even and golden while getting it thin, but not taking too long to do either. When I once tried to show a friend how to do it, I realized how much I had learned simply by watching my mother do it over the years.

I tried once to use all (whoah, big mistake!) semolina and once part semolina with AP. Maybe it's because it simply wasn't the pasta I grew up with, but I didn't like it as much as straight up AP. I've never bothered to try and find 00 or anything. In the '70's, all we had was AP and while i know there are a lot of other options now, AP flour creates the pasta that I grew up with, so it's what I want and use.

I don't want to be negative about your ability to produce good pasta on your own, but I do think it's something where taking a class might be beneficial (does L'Academie teach one?). As I said, I think there's a lot of 'by touch and appearance' to the process that I'm leaving out (just because of spaciness, not trying to sabotage you!) and that is best learned from another human by doing, not be reading Marcella or others.

Oh, I have made spinach pasta, definitely used the food processor for that. The product is a beautiful green color, but Marcella was right--it doesn't really add much in the way of flavor (which isn't what you expect).

Sorry, in re-reading your post, I'm not sure this really gets at your questions...

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Sorry, in re-reading your post, I'm not sure this really gets at your questions...

No, actually it does - thanks! I would never have thought that you could let it sit in the fridge that long. And I was thinking of trying semolina, but maybe I'll wait 'til after Christmas to experiment (there's some major family expectation riding on the outcome of this). Your description of making a well and mixing with a fork is exactly what I remember. I guess what I'm most worried about is kneading for long enough (I just don't have Mom's arm muscles, or her patience) and getting it thin enough.

The real answer is for me to just f***in' do it already. And do it often enough to get the hang of it before Christmas Eve...

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Porcupine--when you use an atlas to roll it out, you don't really need to knead it a lot, because some of that comes from the process of rolling out progressively thinner sheets. I take it you don't have an Atlas (or some other brand?). If I could, I would just loan you mine for the holidays, but I already know we'll be using it for at least one meal. Do you happen to know anybody who has one? Smokey

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I do use the OO flour - I get it from the Italian Store in Arlington and I find it makes a silkier product and to me it seems less likely to break. I usually mix and knead by hand using the well method - this works for me to help get the right consistency. I find I can force it to blend in a mixer and I tend to overwork it also. I do however use the kitchenaid for rolling. I had an atlas type roller before, but if you already have a kitchenaid I recommend the roller attachment as it is much easier to work with both hands (otherwise you will probably need some help).

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I guess what I'm most worried about is kneading for long enough
The woman who taught me how to make pasta stressed not kneading the dough ("You're not making bread!" she would yell). I use her technique of folding the dough (like paper for an envelope) instead of kneading, until it's together enough to go through the machine. The idea behind this is to make very tender fresh pasta (to her, fresh pasta should be tender, while dried pasta should be chewier).
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The woman who taught me how to make ... (to her, fresh pasta should be tender, while dried pasta should be chewier).
That's my take on it as well. I've read (since my semolina experiment) that semolina is traditionally only used in pasta that is going to be dried. I wondered if this wasn't part of the reason why, because I found my semolina-based fresh pasta to be QUITE toothsome.
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It has been quite a while since I made fresh pasta, but I used to do it frequently. I always used part semolina and part AP flour and a hand-crank pasta machine, and always got light-as-a-feather pasta.

My "specialty" was fresh herb pasta. Instead of spinach, I would puree fresh herbs (parsley, basil, rosemary, etc.) with some water and strain and squeeze all the moisture out in a towel and then add it to the well with the eggs, so it got completely incorporated into the dough, which has flecks of green rather than the uniform green color that spinach pasta has. Cooked and tossed with butter or EVO and Reggiano--heavenly.

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That's my take on it as well. I've read (since my semolina experiment) that semolina is traditionally only used in pasta that is going to be dried. I wondered if this wasn't part of the reason why, because I found my semolina-based fresh pasta to be QUITE toothsome.
I use regular AP flour for fresh, stuffed pasta (like ravioli). But I'll do a 3:1 AP to semolina mixture for things like linguine. I find that an all AP pasta doesn't dry well and tends to clump horribly during cooking. Or maybe I just suck.
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Porcupine--when you use an atlas to roll it out, you don't really need to knead it a lot, because some of that comes from the process of rolling out progressively thinner sheets. I take it you don't have an Atlas (or some other brand?). If I could, I would just loan you mine for the holidays, but I already know we'll be using it for at least one meal. Do you happen to know anybody who has one? Smokey

Nope. Gonna do it all by hand, unless I happen to find one within the next week. But I have little time in my schedule to go hunting for a machine. :P

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I've generally used King Arthur's "tipo 00" style flour, which is much like the real Italian stuff, which in turn is what is typically used in Italy for fresh pasta. Semolina, which is sort of the opposite of 00 (very high as opposed to very low protein), is used for factory-made dry pasta. Marcella says that semolina is sometimes used for fresh pasta, but warns that you definitely don't want to try to roll out the resulting dough with a rolling pin. My advice on rolling pin versus machine is that if you're going to start making pasta regularly you should get a machine. It's always rewarding to do things completely by hand, of course, but rolling out pasta dough with a pin is really a big chore, and using a hand-cranked machine is still sort of doing it by hand anyway. I have an Imperia machine which I've found quite satisfactory, and it seems to be a little less expensive than Atlas, although neither costs all that much. You could probably find a machine on-line and have it delivered in less than a week.

Contrary to what others have said, in my experience with making pasta dough it needs to be kneaded more than bread dough--at least ten minutes. Using the classic ingredients of flour and eggs only, anyway, it takes that long for the dough to become totally silky-smooth. Unlike many bread doughs, though (especially brioche dough!), pasta dough is sheer pleasure to handle, at least to me.

One other thing: The flour-on-the-counter-with-a-well-in-the-center technique. Everybody always says to do it this way, and when I started making pasta I did it that way. But after the second time that the wall of flour broke and the egg ran out all over the counter, I decided to try mixing it in a bowl the way I mix bread dough. I would NEVER go back. It's so much easier, and the result is no different.

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Nope. Gonna do it all by hand, unless I happen to find one within the next week. But I have little time in my schedule to go hunting for a machine. :D

Hmmm, might be time for another pasta making class. :P

I have not tried rolling it out by hand in a very, very long time. If you do it I look forward to hearing about your experiences.

Machines are easy to buy at places like Sur La Table and the like and are not that expensive. I would offer to lend you mine, but it is a hand-me-down from my Grandma and I don't let it out of my sight. :lol:

Like most other doughs it is a touch thing that you cannot really get from a recipe. The ideas expressed above are good, but I don't use oil or water in mine and AP flour give good results. Granted there is an old world recipe that uses just flour and water.

Basic recipe is about 3/4 cup flour per egg and a dash or so of salt. Knead for about 5 minutes or so, wrap in plastic and let rest for at least 30 minutes. Then process through the rolling machine. Cut a piece of the dough and roll it through the widest opening. Fold over like a letter and roll through, repeating until smooth and silky. Then proceed to roll through smaller and smaller settings until the final result is obtained.

One important thing to remember is that the pasta is a vehicle for the sauce.

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Please consult this thread on the cuisine of Emilia-Romagna and if you're a participating member, please join in if you're interested and have time to make lasagna, tortellini, tagliatelle and other types of egg pastas during the month of December. (The Italian forum gets too little traffic in comparison to France's. The host never bothers to visit and it could benefit from the presence of some of the Italiaphiles who compare canned plum tomatoes here.)

I won't repeat myself at length. Instead read the post that documents my meal last night begun with Ragu de Nobili, ending in a roasted pear with red wine sauce, honey and Parmigiana-Reggiano.

I've been reading up on some of the issues you address in this thread. Long ago when I made pasta on a regular basis, I just bought whatever AP, bleached flour was available at the supermarket. It was fine. I haven't bothered for quite some time, not until joining in the year-long project to cook our way through all the regions of Italy month by month in the Italian forum, an effort that will continue in 2007. The first three times I used Tipo 00 from Vace with good results. (I made ravioli and other types of stuffed pasta.) Some of the great authorities--Lynne Rossetto Kasper, Marcella Hazan & Lidia M Basianich--use AP unbleached flour alone. MH specifies King Arthur. All require larger eggs: X-L or Jumbo. I tried last night and was not happy with the texture. The dough was supple, a joy to handle after adding more eggs than required, but the tagliatelle was a little tough. Not inedible. Just not grand.

ETA: After re-reading mdt above, I'll add that I tried LRK's recipe last night which requires only eggs and flour. Earlier in the year, I was following different region-specific formulae that add water or wine. Still others add olive oil. Usually semolina is not used for sfoglia (egg dough) since wheat from more Northern regions is softer than the hard wheats that produce the great egg-less pastas of the South. (There's more to the story than that, but I need to scram.)

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I've followed the well and mixed with a fork school, then rolled it through a pasta maker, slicing it up as desired. The finishing is where I get a little stuck. If I'm making my own pasta it is going in to a pot sometime that evening. Currently I drape it over a drying rack till I'm ready to cook it. Raviolis are scattered around in single layers.

How do you store pasta till you're ready to cook it?

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Thanks for all the responses! But I am in a heap o' trouble. I just finished a small test batch of cappelletti and it just doesn't taste or feel right. The broth is good, but now I need to find the right sausage for the filling - it tastes wrong - and the shapes are, well, more like American ballcaps than littled peaked Italian hats :P , and hand rolling the dough? well, it wasn't that hard, but I couldn't keep it even. So some of the little dumplings are translucent and quite nice, while others are just dough balls.

It's going to be a loooong two weeks until Christmas.

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I've followed the well and mixed with a fork school, then rolled it through a pasta maker, slicing it up as desired. The finishing is where I get a little stuck. If I'm making my own pasta it is going in to a pot sometime that evening. Currently I drape it over a drying rack till I'm ready to cook it. Raviolis are scattered around in single layers.

How do you store pasta till you're ready to cook it?

Freeze it. Make little nests after cutting and freeze on a sheet pan. Then put in freezer ziplocs and keep until you need them. They should be tossed in the boiling water frozen. Ravioli can be stored frozen with no problems too.

Crackers -- I will teach/help/whatever, but we need to find another location. :P

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and hand rolling the dough? well, it wasn't that hard, but I couldn't keep it even.
This is among the reasons you should get a machine. Either Froogle it online, or go to one of the many places that carry them. Williams Sonoma, Sur la Table, Linens n Things all should have them. Rodman's might. Crate & Barrel probably does. Bed Bath and Beyond.
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Christmas has arrived early at maison Miller, in the form of an Imperia pasta roller. Couldn't help but go out and buy one this morning, and have been playing with it ever since (well, after lunch at 2 Amys, anyway). This thing makes for the most fun I've had in the kitchen in awhile (yeah, I'm a gear geek). The pasta sheets are the right thickness for cappelletti and are perfectly even.

Now I have to get back to sausage tasting so I can get the filling right.

Thanks for all the tips and gentle insistence that I buy a pasta machine. You all rock. :P

eta: by the way, a 23"x32" Roul'Pat is a wonderful work surface for pasta dough.

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Well, now that I've made pasta five times in one week, here are a few things that I've learned:

1) If you're not used to making pasta, don't attempt more than four eggs-worth at a time

2) If you don't use enough flour, the resulting pasta will have an insipid, almost-falling-apart texture

3) If you don't work the dough long enough... see item 2)

4) If you work the dough too long, the cooked pasta will have an odd "snap" texture, rather than being al dente, when you bite into it.

5) RTFM that comes with your pasta machine

6) When done correctly, homemade pasta is a thing of joy and beauty

7) Blues is the ideal music for working pasta

8) Keep the raw pasta covered when you're not actively working with it

I'm still willing to host a pasta-making gathering, say in mid to late January, but I can't say that I'm an expert yet.

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7) Blues is the ideal music for working pasta

On Christmas I found Greg Brown good for putting together the filling, then for the tedious job of rolling, cutting tiny circles and stuffing: The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, and Bob Dylan. Harry Belafonte and the Tom Tom Club were in the stack, too, though a combo of NPR news, Sam Cook and Ella helped for a second shift the following day.

* * *

This is the recipe I've grown to like for making pasta dough in a smaller batch than porcupine's:

2 extra-large eggs

1 2/3 c AP King Arthur flour

1/3 c cake flour

2 T EVOO

2 T water

Instead of doing the well-business, I just reach for a huge metal bread-baking bowl and mix all with fingers there before kneading dough on counter. I found letting it rest for 45 mins. wrapped in plastic useful. It's even easier to manipulate after resting in the fridge overnight; when making spinach pasta, it turns from flecked to uniform, deep green. Thawed in fridge after freezing? Turns a darker color and gets much softer, but not sticky and is otherwise fine. 1 1/4 batches of this was enough for filling 178 tortellini & cappelletti with 1 3/4 to 2 in. diameters.

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On Christmas I found Greg Brown good for putting together the filling, then for the tedious job of rolling, cutting tiny circles and stuffing: The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, and Bob Dylan. Harry Belafonte and the Tom Tom Club were in the stack, too, though a combo of NPR news, Sam Cook and Ella helped for a second shift the following day.

I would never quarrel with Marvin Gaye, Sam Cook, or Ella Fitzgerald, but this would be another really fine choice. I'm a major Dylan freak, but with pasta?

This is the recipe I've grown to like for making pasta dough in a smaller batch than porcupine's:

2 extra-large eggs

1 2/3 c AP King Arthur flour

1/3 c cake flour

2 T EVOO

2 T water

Instead of doing the well-business, I just reach for a huge metal bread-baking bowl and mix all with fingers there before kneading dough on counter.

Amen to using a bowl. I do the same, except mine is a big crockery bowl, and I start with a big silicone spatula before switching to fingers. I find two large eggs to one cup of 00 flour, with no oil and no water (this is Marcella's formula, except she assumed you can't get 00 flour in the US so uses AP) works fine. If it's a little dry, add a bit of water; if it's too wet, add a little flour.
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I would never quarrel with Marvin Gaye, Sam Cook, or Ella Fitzgerald, but this would be another really fine choice. I'm a major Dylan freak, but with pasta?

It's a mood thing. Nothing to do with pasta itself. New Morning is close to being a Christmas album without soaring voices of little boys or "Mele Kalikimaka". Pavorati would have been suitable for tortellini alla Modena, but the closest I got is Salvatore Licitra. Tom Tom Club, by the way, was perfect for tortelli with cabbage.

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It's a mood thing. Nothing to do with pasta itself. New Morning is close to being a Christmas album without soaring voices of little boys or "Mele Kalikimaka". Pavorati would have been suitable for tortellini alla Modena, but the closest I got is Salvatore Licitra. Tom Tom Club, by the way, was perfect for tortelli with cabbage.

Wow! I guess I am the odd one spinning Minor Threat.

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I've been playing around with formulations for pasta, depending on application. For cappelletti, ravioli, etc., I like using all AP flour and just a bit of milk. For noodle-types, though, I really like a 1:1 semolina:AP flour. It gives a nice texture and flavor and isn't impossible to work (the higher the ratio of semolina, the harder it is, imo).

But... I seem to have broken my Impreza pasta roller. I was able to take it partway apart and kluge it enough to crank out last night's pappardelle, but I think it's goners (though it's sitting on a workbench waiting for me to dissect it more, just for fun).

So, what other makes of pasta machines have you all used? And have they been reliable? Any recommendations or warnings?

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I've been playing around with formulations for pasta, depending on application. For cappelletti, ravioli, etc., I like using all AP flour and just a bit of milk. For noodle-types, though, I really like a 1:1 semolina:AP flour. It gives a nice texture and flavor and isn't impossible to work (the higher the ratio of semolina, the harder it is, imo).

But... I seem to have broken my Impreza pasta roller. I was able to take it partway apart and kluge it enough to crank out last night's pappardelle, but I think it's goners (though it's sitting on a workbench waiting for me to dissect it more, just for fun).

So, what other makes of pasta machines have you all used? And have they been reliable? Any recommendations or warnings?

This may not be your exact model, but may help with the repair. Click.

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So, what other makes of pasta machines have you all used? And have they been reliable? Any recommendations or warnings?

From my first cooking class at Sur La Table, which was spring pasta workshop led by Bonnie Moore, I was told that a pasta attachment for KitchenAid Mixer works well.

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But... I seem to have broken my Impreza pasta roller. ...

So, what other makes of pasta machines have you all used? And have they been reliable? Any recommendations or warnings?

Do you mean Imperia? I believe Impreza is a model of Mitsubishi automobile. Imperia is the only brand of pasta machine I've ever used, and I'm not sure I could break it if I tried, so if you're still looking for another machine, I'd recommend it, without being able to compare it to anything else. One thing that bothers me about all the cranked rolling machines is the clamp that fastens them to a counter. This requires considerable overhang in your counter, which I can achieve only by opening the dishwasher and clamping the machine to the counter above it. In a previous kitchen, I couldn't even do that, and had to clamp the machine to a wooden table, which actually damaged the table. On the other hand, I have a Velox tomato press (which you can see HERE), which attaches to the countertop with a very strong suction device. If you follow the link and look at the tomato press, the white lever in the middle of the base controls the suction: You push it down, as pictured, to attach to the counter, and lift it up to release. It's easily strong enough to anchor a pasta machine. Some entrepreneurial type reading this--make it so!
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From my first cooking class at Sur La Table, which was spring pasta workshop led by Bonnie Moore, I was told that a pasta attachment for KitchenAid Mixer works well.
I second that recommendation. It is great for those of us who only have 2 hands (one for feeding in the dough and one for taking it out the other side). I shudder to think what people must be using to turn those handles :P
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I second that recommendation. It is great for those of us who only have 2 hands (one for feeding in the dough and one for taking it out the other side). I shudder to think what people must be using to turn those handles :P

You only need two hands to feed, turn, and catch the dough.

The KA attachments are nice but expensive.

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Do you mean Imperia? I believe Impreza is a model of Mitsubishi automobile. Imperia is the only brand of pasta machine I've ever used, and I'm not sure I could break it if I tried, so if you're still looking for another machine, I'd recommend it, without being able to compare it to anything else. One thing that bothers me about all the cranked rolling machines is the clamp that fastens them to a counter. This requires considerable overhang in your counter, which I can achieve only by opening the dishwasher and clamping the machine to the counter above it. In a previous kitchen, I couldn't even do that, and had to clamp the machine to a wooden table, which actually damaged the table. On the other hand, I have a Velox tomato press (which you can see HERE), which attaches to the countertop with a very strong suction device. If you follow the link and look at the tomato press, the white lever in the middle of the base controls the suction: You push it down, as pictured, to attach to the counter, and lift it up to release. It's easily strong enough to anchor a pasta machine. Some entrepreneurial type reading this--make it so!

Um, yeah, I was confusing the two hobbies again. It is (was) an Imperia, and I don't know how I managed to break it, but the plastic housing into which the crank inserts sheared off, and the rollers are out of alignment. I agree with you about the clamps - not the best design.

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^ You have plastic parts in your machine? Maybe all the manual ones do now, too, but my all-metal Atlas has served me well since I don't know when. Of course, there was more than a decade there when it was stored way back in the cabinet and never put to use.

I agree w Hersch about the problem of fitting clamps onto the edges of counters. However, I found my neglected clamp the perfect tool for propping up a cheap Ikea bookcase that was leaning further and further away to the left, away from its mate, on account of a slightly reclining floor.

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You have plastic parts in your machine? Maybe all the manual ones do now, too
That's what I was going to say. My Imperia, which is only four or five years old, has no obvious plastic parts. Even the crank handle is wooden, not plastic, and everything else is metal. If they're making pasta machines out of plastic now, I'm glad I got mine when I did.
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That's what I was going to say. My Imperia, which is only four or five years old, has no obvious plastic parts. Even the crank handle is wooden, not plastic, and everything else is metal.

So over a lunch of one of those Polish donut thingies and a hot earl gray bubble tea (don't you just love this multicultural town?), I finished taking apart the machine.

GEEK ALERT If you remove the faceplate on the crank side, you'll see that the crank inserts into a hard plastic piece that is the core of the roller; this plastic piece has a metal endcap, which is why you don't see the plastic. This is the piece that sheared apart (I mistyped that in the earlier post - the plastic itself sheared apart).

Removing that roller altogether shows that there is a tiny bit of play between the plastic core and metal housing, on that end only, and that that plastic end is very slightly unevenly worn, though I am not geek enough to get out the calipers to make sure. My hypothesis is that a manufacturing error allowed that tiny bit of play, and that every time the roller was cranked, the plastic on the far end wore a little bit more, leading to more clearly out-of-alignment rollers, and the resulting break was a result of uneven force distribution that got worse with every use.

An alternate hypothesis is that there's a bit too much play and/or uneven spacing in the gears on the far end of the machine.

mdt, no way I'm going to try to repair this thing - not worth the time or money. Besides, now I have an excuse to go buy a bigger (wider) machine. :P

The noodle cutting attachment is completely unaffected - if anyone wants a spare, let me know.

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