Review Category # 2: Free-Standing Type Extruder Pasta Maker Models

Note: One manually operated extruder pasta maker is reviewed first, followed by review of two electric ones.

Category 2A: “Manual" Extruder Pasta Maker Review

Make & Model: TORCHIO – Pasta Hand Press
Price Range: Under $500
Description: A very simple hand crank press design that bolts down to your support workbench (no bench included). This is commercial grade equipment, with a heavy-duty metal press assembly and extrusion tube, and all-metal dies. Extrusion tube capacity is 17 ounces. It comes with dies for spaghetti and rigatoni (a kind of macaroni). A tagliatelle die may be purchased separately. “Model B” includes a “quickly interchangeable die” feature. Made in Italy.

Review Comments:<.em> I should point out that manually operated extrusion type pasta makers for use in making spaghetti are not at all common in the US. But wherever in the world they are common, the TORCHIO press is a popular model. It is a very simple machine, with a very carefully thought out design. Even the discharge is from the bottom (not the side), which reduces the tendency for the strands to stick together as they come out.

This device cannot do a lot of things, but it can do a really good job of producing some spaghetti. And fairly quickly at that. Very little can go wrong with it, as long as you can mix and knead your dough to the right consistency. The dough, by the way, must be mixed by hand (or in your mixer or food processor). The machine does no mixing for you.

Bottom Line: This machine is simple and well made. It is easy to use, and there is little that can go wrong with it. It is likely to hold up for years and years, even under heavy use. If you have a mixer or food processor to mix the dough in, and know what you are doing, making fresh pasta will not take you very long at all.

The main disadvantages are that while it is not outrageously priced, it is not cheap. Plus it only makes two kinds of strand pasta (one of which requires a die sold separately). It also must be bolted down to its supporting surface (holes in the kitchen table??). And it cannot be motorized later on. Lastly, as for other Italian equipment, getting customer service from the manufacturer may be difficult if you ever need it. Still, I really like it. This would be a great choice for someone wanting a reliable, well built manual extruder type design.

Category 2B: “Electric" Extruder Pasta Maker Reviews

Make & Model: Lello 2720 Pastamaster 2200
Price Range: Under $200
Description: Exposed parts are plastic for easy cleaning, 1300w motor, comes with 6 dies (metal-reinforced plastic)--including one for making spaghetti and one for fettuccine. It makes 2 pounds of pasta in 20 minutes, and weighs 22 pounds. Made in China.

Review Comments:Since Simac (the former “king of the hill” in this category) was bought up by DeLonghi (after which their machines apparently went way downhill), the Lello 2720 has become the most popular and durable of the “mostly plastic” extruder type pasta machines. Other than cost, by the way, the reason that these machines are mostly plastic is to make them easy to wash—because there are a lot of things to wash out when using extruder type machines.

The Lello is very similar to the old Simac, and perhaps for that very reason, a lot of people out there love their Lello machines. The 2720 is still fairly comparable in price to an electric roller type pasta maker, although it will not last you nearly as long. Plastic is still plastic, and breaks easier than metal. Plus this machine has a lot of moving parts. So don’t expect to make this one a family heirloom or anything.

But if electric extruder is what you think will best meet your needs, and you are not made of money, this is probably your best bet. Whatever you do, I strongly encourage you to never buy a Ronco pasta maker (the ones you have seen demonstrated by Ron Popeil on infomercials). They are so notorious for frequent clogs and breakdowns, and short useful lives, that I cannot see how they can be a good use of anybody’s money.

One of the appeals of this category of pasta maker is that it actually mixes up the ingredients and kneads the dough for you, before you shift it over to the extrusion operation. For many people, however, it takes some time and practice to learn how to successfully get the mix right (sometimes a lot<.em> of time and practice). So be prepared for a possible learning curve if you have never used these kinds of machines before (or this one in particular).

A word to the wise in that regard—stick with the recipes provided with the machine, and be sure to weigh the amount of flour you include. If you measure it, you simply will not get the mix right. And the penalty for not getting the mix right in extrusion type pasta makers is clogging and jamming—something that really takes the fun out of it all.

In addition, do not plan on making “whole grain” only pasta in these machines. They are not built to handle it. If you want an extrusion machine you can be free to get more creative with, you are going to need to move up to the professional level equipment (see next review).

Clogging and jamming, as well as the breakage of plastic parts (and issues with getting replacement parts), are the main complaints people have with these machines. I must say to their credit, though, that Lello has at least reinforced the extrusion dies with metal, in an attempt to help make them last longer. People also like the clean cut that can be achieved on the ends of extruded pasta because of the metal exterior on the die surfaces.

Bottom Line: The main advantages to the Lello 2720 are that it can be quick and easy to use, once you get the hang of it. It also consistently holds up better than the competition. Plus it is not terribly expensive (comparable in price to the affordable electric roller type machines), and you can make a fair amount of pasta with it in a short amount of time. And you do not have to mix up the ingredients or knead the dough by hand, like you do with the electric roller type ones. Lastly, the largely plastic construction makes clean-up relatively easy.

The main disadvantages are that this machine will not last as long as the roller type designs. Plus, you really have to get the mix just right, or you will have lots of problems. (This is also somewhat of an issue with the roller type designs, but even more so with the extruders.) And you can make some tubular type pastas, but only spaghetti and fettucine as far as the strand pastas. Lastly, with this machine, you cannot get very creative with recipes and ingredients.

Pretty much all of the disadvantages listed apply also to all the competition for the Lello 2720 as well. So taking all of the above into consideration, if I were going to have an electric extruder type pasta maker for my home, this is the one I would get.

Make & Model: DOLLY Pasta Extruder
Price Range: Under $3000
Description: Commercial grade machine suitable for restaurant or catering use, but small enough for home use as well. Compact design, stainless steel construction, 1/3 hp motor, brass extrusion chamber, weighs approximately 55 pounds, Can produce approximately 13 pounds of pasta per hour. Comes with all-metal dies for spaghetti, macaroni, noodles, and tagliatelle (many additional dies available for purchase separately). Motorized cutter is available for purchase separately. Made in Italy.

Review Comments:As might be expected from the description and price, this machine is more popular in restaurant circles than in the home cooking market. But for those who really want an extrusion type electric pasta maker, and want a quality one that will go the distance, this is the machine you ought to be looking at. It is essentially a commercial machine that is small enough for use at home. It is the choice of cooking connoisseurs who want to be able to make a lot of fresh spaghetti quickly, and have the money to make it happen.

Bottom Line: This DOLLY model is a great machine—built to perform, and to last.. As for all machines, it takes some skill to learn how to operate. But it can make a lot of great fresh spaghetti in a short amount of time, and with little effort.

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