A pasta extruder is a kitchen appliance which is used to make pasta shapes like wagon wheels, macaroni, spaghetti, and so forth. Pasta extruders vary in size, from small models which are designed to be used at home to huge industrial pasta machines used by pasta companies to produce high volumes of pasta. This specialty item can sometimes be found in kitchen supply stores, and it is also possible to purchase a pasta extruder through a pasta supplier, along with dies for making various desired shapes.
The design of a pasta extruder can vary, but it typically includes a chamber for pasta dough which is attached to a housing for a die, a piece of metal which has been cut into a specific shape to generate a desired pasta shape. Using a lever or crank, the user forces the dough through the chamber and out the die, creating the desired shape. The pasta extruder can be used to make hollow shapes like macaroni, fantastic and complex shapes like rotelle, or round pasta like spaghetti, depending on the dies available.
If you want to make certain pasta shapes at home, you will require a pasta extruder. Others can be made with a bit of manipulation and cheating, although the process can be time consuming and frustrating. In some cases, you may be able to find a pasta extruder which is bundled with a pasta machine, allowing you to make flat pasta like lasagna, linguine, and fettuccine. Typically a pasta extruder will also come with recipes for various doughs, and sometimes serving suggestions are included as well.
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Once pasta shapes have been made with a pasta extruder, they can be allowed to dry for future use, or they can be eaten immediately. If you plan on eating the shapes within a few days, toss them lightly with flour to prevent them from sticking and keep them in the fridge; they can also be frozen for up to six months, depending on the dough you used. Some doughs are better suited to fresh pasta than others, yielding a rich flavor which is quite distinctive, while others lend themselves well to drying.
In the pasta community, there is some debate over the best material for dies. Some people, for example, swear by bronze dies, saying that they produce the best pasta. Others say that any metal is acceptable, and some people even use plastic dies. In any case, many pasta fans agree that the best flour for pasta dough is durum wheat flour, which gives pasta strength and resilience, allowing it to hold up well during the cooking process.