When your rolling pin can’t get the job done, which pasta machine should you turn to? Here is my review of two Italian-made pasta machines: the Marcato Atlas vs the Imperia pasta machine.
I love the squishy elastic feel of soft dough being kneaded in my bare hands. I enjoy the back and forth motion of rolling out a malleable dough with my rolling pin. I get excited at the final act of wrapping the rolled out dough onto my rolling pin and unfurling it in cascading layers just before it’s cut into long strands of noodles.
But not all noodle dough is like this. Some, like ramen or udon dough, are tough to roll and takes the fun out of the noodle-making process.
Which is when you need a pasta machine to bring back the fun.
My husband bought a hand-crank pasta machine on a whim one afternoon. He and our son used it that very day to make Italian pasta but it took me weeks before I touched it myself. You see, I wanted to make all my noodles by hand.
But when our ramen dough wouldn’t budge to any amount of fist thumping or rolling pin whacking, I relented to gadget help and took out the pasta machine and it transformed our entire experience. I stopped cursing at the dough, my son and daughter became interested again in making noodles, and we all enjoyed the process so much more. Kids love playing with gadgets as much as us adults do.
Our first machine was the Marcato Atlas 150 (the 150 denotes the size of the machine in centimeters. Another popular option offered is 180mm). It is made in Italy and has served us very well so far. We use this one for most of the year in Dubai.
For our summers in the U.S., I purchased another Italian-made product, the Imperia pasta machine 150 by Cucina Pro. I was hoping that the Imperia pasta machine would be as good as the Marcato brand and the $20 price savings between the two brands made it more attractive.
How do these two machines compare?
Marcato Atlas vs. Imperia Pasta Machine
Below is my review of these two brands: the Marcato Atlas 150 vs. the Cucina Pro Imperia 150.
NOTE: This is not a paid product review nor sponsored post. I’ve fallen in love with noodle-making and am sharing my thoughts on two Italian-made machines to help you choose the best one.
Look and Feel
At first glance, they looked nearly identical.
Both have two main parts: an adjustable 6-inch wide roller and a duo cutter that can cut dough sheets into two sizes (fettuccine and tagliolini). Both attach to a table or counter top by a metal screw-type C-clamp. And both are made of chrome-plated steel. The Marcato’s rollers and cutters are made of anodized aluminum which the company guarantees contain no heavy metals that are harmful to your health.
The Imperia included one extra accessory which was a metal sheet that attaches to the roller section (left side of the machine) to help guide the dough sheets into the roller (see photo below). I didn’t feel that the metal sheet was necessary and prefer to have the flattened dough sheet on the right side of the machine using the walls of the duo cutter to guide the dough sheet along.
Another difference between the two brands is the handle color.
The Imperia’s handle was made of a light-colored wood (see photo above) and the Marcato had a black plastic handle (see photo below).
However, note that the Crate & Barrel version of the Marcato has a different handle – it seems to be made of plastic as well but is a translucent white color.
Here is the Marcato machine that we bought from Crate & Barrel where you can see the different colored handle.
Setting up the pasta machine was exactly the same for both brands.
You secure the pasta machine to your work surface by inserting the supplied C-clamp into the designated hole in the pasta machine and then tightening the screw to your table or counter top.
I was worried that the clamp would cause damage to my kitchen island so I inserted one of those felt floor-protector pads that are used on the bottom of chair legs.
The rollers and cutters seemed to work nearly identical. You flatten the dough by feeding it through the adjustable rollers on the left side of the machines and then cut the dough on the right side with either of the duo cutters (one cutter makes thin noodles, the other cutter makes thick noodles).
When rolling the initial thicker dough, I found that no matter how tightly I screwed down the Imperia machine to my counter top, it would still wobble on the other end and come off the table. With the Marcato, there was slightly less wobble. To counter this, I had to make sure that the dough I inserted into the widest roller setting wasn’t too thick.
Both machines worked very smoothly when using the hand crank. Although we kept dropping the handle onto the floor. You have to be careful that when you let go of the crank to not also pull it out.
Additional Metal Plate
As mentioned earlier, the Imperia includes a metal sheet that attaches to the roller section to rest and guide the dough sheet as it is being passed through the rollers. While this was a nice idea, I found the design awkward with the dough going in and out of the same side. Instead, I found it more useful to rest the dough sheet on the right side of the machine (on top of the duo cutters) and feed it through that way.
Adjustable Roller & Thickness Settings
The adjustable rollers are controlled by a dial on both machines.
With the Marcato, you pull the dial out, turn to the desired thickness, and then release the dial and it locks into place. There are 10 roller settings: 0 is the widest which flattens dough to 0.6 millimeters and 9 is the narrowest at 4.8 millimeters.
Adjusting the dial on the Marcato was easy and effortless.
The Imperia has six thickness settings, with 6 as the widest roller setting and 1 as the smallest. To adjust the dial, you pull up on a lever, then turn the dial to the desired setting, and release the lever. This sounds simple but was not so easily accomplished.
It may have been that my machine was faulty but I had a difficult time adjusting the dial. I would pull the lever up but could not easily turn the dial. I struggled so hard that I was nearly broke down into tears of frustration. My son tried to help but no luck.
This was a complete deal breaker for us as the whole point of using a pasta machine was to facilitate our noodle making. If neither of us could turn the adjustment dial, how was this making our life easier?
The directions for both machines specified not to use any water for cleaning as the parts are made of steel and could rust. Using a dry brush or dry cloth is recommended.
I bought this soft-bristled pastry brush from OXO to brush the flour off the machine and onto the counter top. (I then use a dough scraper to scrape all the dough off the counter and into the trash. Finally, I use a damp cloth to clean any remaining flour off the work surface.)
When my dough is too soft, I will get some of it stuck in the the cutters which is annoying so I try to make sure my dough isn’t too soft. To clean the stuck pieces, I let it dry and harden overnight and then I push it out with a toothpick.
Both machines come in a compact box.
When not in use, you can remove the handle and place the machine back into the box and easily store it in your cupboard.
There are lots of options to expand the form and function of your pasta machine.
Additional cutting sizes
The pasta machines come with two pasta/noodle sizes but you can purchase additional attachments that will cut your dough in a variety of sizes like capellini, linguini, pappardelle and more. There’s even a ravioli stuffer attachment. Each additional attachment will cost you around $30-50.
Both the Imperia and Marcato offer the option of attaching an electric motor which will cost you about $80 to $100. You remove the hand crank and attach the motor.
I prefer to roll the pasta by hand as it has more allure for me and the children. And it also with the kids’ fine and gross motor skills.
The Imperia is only available in chrome.
The Marcato is available in chrome and 8 other colors: Black, blue, light blue, copper, gold, green, pink, and red. Would be great for color-coordinated kitchens or as a gift.
I bought the traditional chrome colored one because I could’t justify spending another $20 just for aesthetics. But now, I wish I had bought the red one that I had been eyeing for so long. I should have just consumed 5 less Starbuck’s coffee and saved up that way.
Once you start getting into pasta/noodle making, you will quickly see that there are so many accessories that you could buy and in a huge range of prices.
For example, I wanted a rack to dry noodles for storage and ended up getting this economical one from NorPro but you can also splurge and get this gorgeous one from Marcato (which is available in 4 different colors).
The Marcato Atlas 150 is about $69 on Amazon for the chrome color and has a 10 year warranty. If you want one of the other colored options, then the price will be slightly more expensive – about $20 more than the basic chrome model.
Imperia is about $49 on Amazon and has a one-year limited warranty.
I would highly recommend visiting a kitchen supply store to try out both machines, if possible, especially the ease of changing knob settings. It could be that I received a fluke and not all Imperia machines are as difficult to adjust as mine.
Of the two Italian-made pasta machines, I prefer the Marcato brand. It feels like a sturdier machine, has better knob control, and a much longer warranty should anything happen to it. It’s worth spending the extra $20. Plus it comes in lots of different colors. Form and function.
There are times when I enjoy using a rolling pin to roll out my noodle dough (as long as it’s a soft easy dough!) but when it comes to stiff dough, I turn to my pasta machine to make easy work out of the kneading.
If you’ve imagined that making Asian noodles is too much work, definitely get a pasta machine to make your life easier and inject more fun into the experience. My kids and I love using the machine as it churns out noodles effortlessly. For inspiration on what you can make with it, click here to see some of the noodle recipes we’ve created with our Marcato pasta machine.