Should you be making pasta in-house?
Any Italian with a grandmother will tell you that there is a time and place for both dried pasta and fresh pastas, but many restaurants find themselves relying on boxed, dry pasta almost exclusively. While there is nothing wrong with premade pastas for dishes like fettuccine and linguine, making your own pasta in-house for a range of different dishes can elevate your reputation and give your kitchen an edge in flavor. Best of all: restaurant equipment for fresh pasta is not all that extensive or expensive to buy and maintain.
Guarantee quality and consistency
Dried pastas are popular in no small part because they are consistent: major brands have their recipes for semolina pastas down to a science, and quality controls are an important part of their processes. However, making your own pastas in-house for certain dishes--such as gnocchi or tagliatelle--means that you have full control over the ingredients, and the end result from start to finish. This comes in particularly handy if your restaurant wants to begin offering gluten-free or other options--gnocchi made on a factory line, while consistent in quality, may or may not have allergens or trace amounts of other ingredients in them that your customers shouldn’t or don’t want to have.
By controlling the ingredients and process, you’ll know everything that’s in the pasta, and you can control the quality from start to finish. You can also incorporate whole wheat, gluten free, and other options on your own and find the exact ways to play with those components to offer a special experience to customers.
Another aspect to consider is the fact that while dried pastas are generally consistent, the quality for niche products is harder to judge, and individual situations in the kitchen--humidity, atmospheric pressure, and so on--can affect the end product much more than the manufacturers can account for in offering a broad-based ingredient. By making pasta in-house, you can control for those factors, and make pasta doughs that work perfectly the day of.
It may seem strange that incorporating new restaurant equipment into your operation can be a way to increase profits, but customers will often pay extra for specialty pastas, as well as fresh-made pastas, which are difficult for novice home cooks to make on their own. More to the point, the equipment you need is often not all that expensive in terms of layout; many fresh pastas don’t even require a pasta roller, so additional prep equipment may be all you need--bowls, boards, bins, and things of that nature that restaurants can always use more of.
Especially if you’re able to get a handle on offering truly unique fresh pastas--such as adding unique flavors into the dough for end products like tagliatelle and gnocchi--you can ask customers to pay a little more for the unique experience and quality of your dishes, compared to something that tends towards being run-of-the-mill. Beet juice, spinach, squid ink, and tomato are all popular additions to pasta doughs in Italy, and if you have the restaurant supplies to manufacture some of your own pasta, you can get creative with flavors and colors, transforming a bland dish into something truly spectacular.
Many classic fresh pastas do not require much in the way of extra equipment; gnocchi can be made with the ingredients, a bowl, a flat surface to knead the dough on, a bench knife and a fork to help shape the finished dumplings. Even fresh ravioli and stuffed pastas require very little extra outlay for equipment, meaning that incorporating in-house pasta into your restaurant’s menu is a cost effective option. Making a minimal investment in tools of the trade can give you the opportunity to not only craft dishes that will exceed customer expectations, but also ones that you can--understandably--charge a little more for than you would if they were made from dried pastas. Consumers are happy to pay extra for greater quality.
While there will likely never be a need--or, possibly, even a desire--to go to making all of your own pasta, there are all kinds of options available from extruders and rollers and shapers to more basic restaurant equipment, to make it easy for your restaurant to make at least some of it’s own, in-house, fresh made pasta. If your business makes a range of pasta dishes, or even only a few key items, consider switching out the dry pasta for in-house recipes to make things even better.