Ruth Rhodes

I don't know about your kitchen, but mine is overrun with gadgets. They take over my cupboards, teeter from the top of my refrigerator, and consume prime real estate on the counters. They remind me of an overpaid road construction crew the way they idle about.

I swore that the ice cream maker was my last indulgence. I only just donated my Belgian waffler to the secondhand shop and I was planning on relocating the bread machine and the rice cooker to less conspicuous locations. But a few weeks ago, a friend offered me a pasta maker, and I couldn't resist.

This wasn't an old-fashioned, hand-crank device, but an all-in-one mega-appliance. You put the ingredients in one end and the pasta miraculously appears out the other. Just the thing, thought I, to reduce my carbon footprint! No more imported Italian pasta. By making my own, I could add local eggs and herbs and enjoy a better-tasting, fresher, more nutritious product. The only additional carbon consumed would be the fuel I used to drive the machine over to my place.

Last weekend was cold and rainy: pasta weather! So I took the machine for a spin. I got around to reading the directions, and gasped when I read, "Perfect Pasta in Fifteen Easy Steps." Fifteen! I may be a lover of fine food, but I consider a roux complicated, and that takes only five steps. Half of the process turned out to be assembling the darn thing: hopper, mixer and extruder. I wanted to interest my 2-year old in the venture, but he quickly grew bored as I tinkered.

Eventually, I got to the exciting part, turned the machine on, and added the ingredients. I started simple: I chose a recipe using half semolina flour and half unbleached flour, followed by an egg, a little water, and a small amount of olive oil. The ingredients in pasta are really quite elementary.

Everything went well until the machine stopped kneading and started extruding. I heard a loud CRACK as the screw cap holding the extruder plate broke off. Dough came out the gaping hole in crumbly lumps. I switched off the machine to examine the damage. The plastic screw cap had snapped in two-impossible to repair. I immediately looked online for spare parts, but the machine had been discontinued. My friends had only used it once, but it was more than fifteen years old.

I hate waste, so I had to do something with those sad looking lumps of pasta dough. So I opened up my favorite cookbook - Simple Food by Alice Waters - and discovered that she had a lovely explanation for how to cut pasta by hand.

My first noodles were raggedy and misshapen. No wonder the hand-crank machines were so popular. I was tempted to take a shortcut and use my toddler's playdough extruder, but I "manned up." That is, I got my husband and little boy to join in and we had some family fun rolling and cutting together.

The noodles came out thick, wide, and eggy. They begged to be smothered by a rich gravy or to swim in homemade soup. I only had red sauce at the ready, but it clung to the imperfections in the noodles and the taste was superb.

The moral of this tale? I have plenty of space in my kitchen for family, friends, and good food; I have no space for any more appliances. Will I stick to my noodles on that? If not, you know what they say: "Those who forget the pasta are condemned to reheat it."