Anatomy of a Classic

The Tale Behind the Little Pasta Machine That Could

In the beginning, it was just a little workshop tucked behind a house in rural Italy. But in 1930, recognizing the demand for appliances that help with cooking, Otello Marcato, the owner of both the house and the workshop, began tinkering with a hand-powered device to flatten pasta dough more neatly and with less armpower than was traditionally required to create noodles as delicious as the ones nonnas had been making forever. Eight years after developing his machine, Otello officially established a company, giving it his last name, and for Italians used to rolling out silky linguine and wide sheets of lasagna noodles by hand, the Marcato roller was akin to a minor industrial revolution.

Fast-forward to 1962 when the first shipment of the pasta machines reached U.S. shores, destined for Philadelphia. America was the first country outside of the Bel Paese to stock them, but exporting wasn’t as big a milestone for Marcato as the one that followed three years later when they introduced the Atlas model. It borrowed from earlier iterations, but with a simplified design that became an icon of Italian style and commitment to good eating. The Atlas is all about flexibility—it allows you to make lasagna 150 millimeters wide and tagliolini as narrow as 1.5 millimeters—and has since been dubbed the Ferrari of the pasta-machine world by Cook’s Illustrated.

As Marcato nears its ninetieth anniversary, their products are now available in eighty countries, you can get a motor add-on that eliminates all the hand-cranking, and additional tools (pasta bike, anyone?) bring the fun. But on the whole, much has stayed the same. What was once a small workshop has grown into a larger factory, but Marcato products are still produced where they were made in 1938. And, still, all you need to make phenomenal pasta is an Atlas, flour, water, eggs, and a (timeless) love of carbs.

Roll With It