Some might say cooking is all about getting in and getting your hands dirty. When it comes to pasta, that means flour slowly turning into dough, kneaded by hand, leaving a fine mist of white everywhere. Depending on experience, skills, and the recipe, that fine mist of flour can just as easily turn into wet little pieces of wanna-be dough sticking to anything and everything. And all this before the dough even hits the extruder. Though a hand-cranked pasta extruder is a time-honored and classic way to create a variety of pastas, sometimes it's OK to let modern technology take over.
The Viante Electric Pasta Maker ($180) provides users of all skill levels and interests the opportunity to easily create homemade pastas. The 200-watt machine features the capability to produce nine different pasta shapes (and biscotti, too): linguine, fettuccini, spaghetti, rigatoni, vermicelli, ziti, tagliatelle, pappardelle, or spaghettini. Best of all, the pasta maker does all the kneading and mixing for you.
The all-in-one nature of the appliance is its appeal, but it doesn't ignore the personal aspect when creating dough. A clear viewing window not only provides the ability to observe the dough's progress, but a removable measuring spoon allows for water to be added as needed. The touch and feel of the dough will always be the real measuring stick of performance, but to those without a lifetime's worth of experience a little automation might be the next best thing--and certainly tidier.