An electric pasta machine is an essential piece of equipment to have in any Italian restaurant kitchen. This automatic machine will make fresh varieties of pasta in minimal time and produces a texture and taste that is a cut above the boxed pasta. When shopping for your commercial pasta maker, a few deciding factors should be design and construction, settings and production rate, and ease of maintenance.
Creating Your Checklist
It's a good idea to make a checklist and compare it with features on various models. Now take a closer look at seven key factors that should influence your purchase:
1. The Design
You'll choose from two designs: the roller type machine that utilizes the roll-and-cut method or the extrusion design. The roll-and-cut design is the simplistic way, more suitable for smaller quantities of pasta. This basic design may be more time consuming and not suitable for larger restaurants. A roller pasta machine requires the user to cut the sheets by hand before placing them into the machine.
An extrusion design utilizes a special die for cutting, eliminating the need to hand-cut the desired length. More importantly, it will knead the dough for you, saving time and effort. If your restaurant is high volume, the extrusion design might be the best choice.
2. Materials and Construction
When choosing a commercial pasta machine, stainless steel construction is preferable over a chrome-plated body. Chrome has a tendency to rust over time, whereas stainless steel is more resistant to corrosion. Additionally, a solid stainless steel construction is the more durable of the two. You should avoid a machine with plastic parts and knobs, which may break easily, and opt for a machine with all-metal parts.
An important feature to look for in your commercial pasta maker is the settings option. It should include several thickness settings. Most quality machines will offer at least 10 thickness settings.
The thickness settings may be broken down into three categories, including thin, medium and thick. Each category may provide several variations of thickness. For instance, the "thick" setting may include several settings ranging from 3/4"-7/8". The medium may be used for a thickness of 3/8"-7/16", while the thin setting may offer 3/16"-7/32" thickness.
Some pasta machines come with a guide printed on the machine to offer setting suggestions. If you prefer wide fettuccine noodles, you might use the "thick" setting. For linguine, a "medium" or "thin" setting might be preferable.
4. Production Rate
This factor should be decided according to the volume of customers you serve. For a small restaurant, you might not need a machine with high production rate. In such a case, 10 pounds of pasta per hour might suffice. For a high volume restaurant, look for a pasta machine that offers a minimum production rate of 25 pounds per hour.
5. Easy Clean-Up and Maintenance
A low-maintenance machine is good for productivity. For this reason, look for a machine that offers front draining, as you won't need to turn it around or readjust the position every time you drain it. Also, an overflow drain valve will prevent your machine from boiling over during the cooking cycle. Non-stick interior and elements will make clean-ups easier as well.
6. Continuous Operation
Did you know that some pasta machines require a "cool down" period between use? For a busy kitchen, you must choose a model that will run continuously for hours at a time without overheating. Otherwise, you may be waiting 30 minutes or longer between each use.
7. Available Accessories
Last but not least, be sure the pasta machine comes with included accessories, or check if they are offered for sale by the manufacturer. Two useful accessories are the ravioli press and pastry wheel. A ravioli press is essentially a tray that holds a flattened and kneaded sheet of pasta. Once on the press, the user will form the desired ravioli shapes using a pastry wheel.
Other important accessories include necessary attachments or cutters to make various types of pasta. Such attachments will allow you to create linguine, fettuccine, lasagna and spaghetti. Stuffing attachments allow you to stuff your pasta with meat or vegetables.