Bear with us on this one, it’s not as wacky as it sounds: Turns out there’s an entire movement out there devoted to using paper shredders to put fresh pasta on the family table. And with pasta machines ringing up at about $180, pasta-making mixer attachments costing about $80, and hand-crank versions running for about $70, a $20 shredder sounds like a pretty great substitution.
Used to be a pasta maker was its own freestanding machine; you registered for one when you got married, or chipped in for one as someone’s holiday gift. And then you stored it somewhere out-of-reach in the kitchen where you used it less than you might have if it sat somewhere you could see it. Eventually you remembered you owned it and down it would come for a fun family evening of feeding in fettuccini, cutting spaghetti and feasting on the freshest pasta the kids had ever had. Then back to the shelf above the fridge, not to be seen again for three seasons.
Then came the readily available pasta maker attachments. If you’re lucky enough to own a Kitchenaid stand mixer (the thing will change your life) or a Cuisinart food processor, both companies offer attachments that will shape your dough after mixing. If you already keep one of these larger appliances at arm’s length it’s not too tough to store the pasta attachment, and bring fresh pasta into more regular rotation. But for even less money (or for free if you’ve got an extra shredder already!) you can mix up that dough in your existing appliance, then feed it through your shredder, for perfectly cut linguine.
Food expert and star of "Good Eats" on the Food Network, Alton Brown was one of the first to go public with the idea of a shredder as an easy pasta maker, talking about it in an article in "Wired" magazine, but there are now entire sites dedicated to the practice as well.
Here’s a quick primer on how to do it:
1) Start with a new, unused shredder. There's lots of info out there about cleaning your used shredder and getting it ready for food safe use, but we vote that you err on the side of safety and simply start new. Afterall, who wants to risk a papercut eating dinner?
2) Roll your pasta dough into sheets thin enough to fit into your shredder. Capacity varies, so do a quick test. Remember to trim your dough for width so it can be easily fed into the side-to-side size of your particular shredder.
3) If you’ve got a small enough shredder (see below for our pick) you can hold the machine in one hand, using that same hand to operate the on/off switch. With your left hand you’ll feed the rolled-thin pasta dough through the shredder, moving your hand to the bottom to catch the dough as soon as about 6 inches have come through.
4) When you've got about six inches, set the shredder down gently, continuing to support your layer of pasta, and grab scissors you have washed well. Clip the pasta, and start the process again.
5)Try The Ziszor. What we love about this cordless, battery operated little wizard is that it’s small and will actually fit in a drawer (about the length of your forearm and 2 inches or less at its tallest) so you can store close-at-hand for weeknight pasta making. Plus it's light and easy to operate with one hand.
6) Don’t use shredders with basket attachments. These machines, with the wastebasket attached, are pretty convenient in the home office or for sorting mail over. But for pasta making they’re not the best since you don’t want the pasta pooled in the bottom permanently affixing itself to its neighbor. In a pinch you can certainly detach the shredder itself from the base, but these do tend to be the bulkier versions.
So, shredder as pasta maker? We’re on board! But we wonder: what's next? Grilled cheese in the scanner?
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