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Bob’s Pasta Homage to Ron Popeil, Master of “The Turn”

Last night I made Pasta.

And whenever I make Pasta I thank Ron Popeil, Pitchman Extraordinaire who perfected the Infomercial and made pasta a part of my life.

There's More! Click Picture to Play Video

I knew I loved Ron Popeil, but I didn’t know how much until I read the first chapter in “What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures” by Malcolm Gladwell. The title of that chapter says it all; “The Pitchman – Ron Popeil and the Conquest of the American Kitchen”.

Gladwell begins by describing one of the world’s oldest professions:

You can take a pitchman and make a great actor out of him, but you cannot take an actor and always make a great pitchman out of him. The pitchman must make you applaud and take out your money. He must be able to  to execute what in pitchman’s parlance is called “the turn” – the perilous, crucial moment when he goes from entertainer to businessman. If, out of a crowd of fifty, twenty-five people come forward to buy, the true pitchman sells to only twenty of them. To the remaining five, he says, “Wait! There’s something else I want to show you!” Then he starts his pitch again, with slight variations, and the remaining four or five become the inner core of the next crowd, hemmed in by the people around them, and so eager to pay their money and be on their way that they start the selling frenzy all over again.

He then gives a bit of background to let you know Popeil didn’t just stumble upon success:

Ron Popeil started pitching his father’s kitchen gadgets at the Maxwell Street flea market in Chicago,in the midfifties. He was thirteen. Every morning, he would arrive at the market at five and prepare fifty pounds each of onions, cabbages, and carrots, and a hundred pounds of potatoes. He sold from six in the morning until four in the afternoon, bringing in as much as $500 a day. In his late teens, he started doing the state and county-fair circuit, and then he scored a prime spot in the Woolworth’s at State and Washington, in the Loop, which at the time was the top-grossing Woolworth’s store in the country. He was making more than the manager of the store, selling the Chop-O-Matic and the Dial-O-Matic. … “He was mesmerizing, … there were secretaries who would take their lunch break at Woolworth’s to watch him because he was so good-looking. He would go into the turn, and people would just come running.”

Ron Popeil’s success came from hard work, and the design of unique and compelling products. When coupled with his unmatched ability to “pitch” them to TV audiences the resulting sales were staggering. His crowning achievement, The Showtime Rotisserie is set to soon surpass $1 Billion in sales! Unbelievable.

But I’m much more interested in the Ronco Popeil Automatic Pasta Maker. I mean anyone can Rotisserie a chicken, but when you have your peeps over and make fresh pasta for them right before their eyes, you are a hero! And Ron made me a hero many times over.

After serving faithfully for many years, my own Ronco Popeil Automatic Pasta Maker finally gave up the ghost a while back. When I tried to purchase another I was stunned to find out that Ronco was out of business and there was no joy to be had in my personal Pasta World. Drats.

So I tried to replace it with an Italian machine whose brand I won’t mention. Disaster. It didn’t hold a candle to my beloved Pasta Shooter. As fate would have it some friends had purchased a Takka Pasta Maker from Macy’s about 20 years ago and had never opened the box. They were gracious enough to pass it along to me and when I opened it I discovered that it has a virtually identical mechanism to Popeil’s version. The only difference is that my Takka is built like a Russian Tank with lots of heavy metal where the Popeil used plastic. This baby will be with me until the end!

Here is the video I filmed last night. Bob The Pasta Maker is back! I think of it as my homage to Ron Popeil. The first section shows the ‘mixing’ part of the process. Add oil olive and eggs to 50/50 semolina /white flour.  Then next the breath-taking extrusion phase where the pasta is actually ‘shot’.

And although I make this look easy in the video, knowing how quickly to add the liquid and exactly when to extrude the pasta really does take some skill. It’s me and Ron on this one; but while I can mix with the best, I know I can’t pitch like the Master.

Finally as an extra credit bonus, if you want to see a typical Ron Popeil price countdown (and you should), here’s your YouTube link.

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Discussion

14 thoughts on “Bob’s Pasta Homage to Ron Popeil, Master of “The Turn”

  1. Help!
    We have the Ron Popeil Pasta Maker but somehow the measuring cup is missing; we have NO IDEA how much the special measuring cup holds, so do not know how much liquid to add to egg/oil.
    Now, see we cannot buy a new measuring cup.
    Could you please tell us HOW MUCH liquid to add/how large the measuring cup is.
    From your comments, I gather 2 cups of flour are used.

    Also, the video says teaspoon of oil and of salt; book says 1 tablespoon….which is it?
    You can tell we have never used this before.

    Posted by J. Green | May 5, 2010, 2:00 am
  2. J,

    OK, here’s my mix. 1 cup white flour and 1 cup semolina in the Pasta Maker.

    Put 2 eggs in a container, then 2 tablespoons olive oil. Dash of salt. Now add water until you have 1 cup of liquid with the eggs etc. inside. Mix it up real good.

    [This will make a little more than you need for two people. I’ve found you can actually go to 1 1/2 cups of each flour for a total of 3 cups with the same amount of liquid if you are good at adding the liquid, see below. This will give you enough pasta for 4 people.]

    Fire up the shooter to mix up the white and semolina flour. After it’s mixed in, add the liquid.

    Now here’s where experience matters, and it will take you a while before you get really good.

    + The trickiest thing is when to stop mixing and start extruding. It’s when the mix gets kinda just a little lumpy, looks like little balls are forming.

    + Just before it’s ready the mix seems to expand, all of a sudden it seems like there’s more mix in the bowl.

    + A good mix is not only the right consistency, but was mixed at the right speed. If you take too long to get to extrusion it’s not as good as if you get it mixed within just a few minutes. But of course if you go too fast that’s no good either.

    + If you mess up and it’s too liquid or too dry you can fix it, but then it’s never as good as when you do it right the first time. It’s not that bad, but don’t think it’s as good as it can be.

    + This takes patience and practice. Don’t despair, you can be a pro pasta shooter just like me…I’ve been doing this for 15 years.

    + Be very careful and don’t drink too much wine before making the pasta. And if you do drink too much wine, be really, extra careful you don’t put pieces of your shooter into the trash compactor when you are cleaning up! Don’t ask me how I’ve come to this final bit of knowledge…

    Pasta Bob

    P.S. I forgot to mention that you are supposed to put the plastic extruder form that the pasta shoots thru in boiling water for a minute before you start. I’m really not sure why or if it really makes a difference, but I’ve always done it anyway. By the time you start extruding it’s cooled off, so maybe it ‘cleans’ the holes in the template somehow. Whatever.

    Posted by Bob Gelber | May 5, 2010, 7:15 am
    • I just want to thank you so very much for this info. My Mother is no longer able to cook, I have always made pasta with my little hand crank italian machine, nightmare, you need 4 hands. I “inherited” Mom’s machine, she bought at a thrift store, mostly intact for $5.00! She never used it! I have been able to locate the few missing parts on ebay (Yeah!), but the measure has been elusive. Thank you so very much for this great info. Happy Pasta Making! P.S. I love this little machine! If it dies, I will seriously cry!

      p.s.s. what can you tell me about the bagel portion of this system? I see the bagel cutter on ebay, but is it just a bagel cutter, or is there something more important/mysterious about this piece? I can’t afford to buy everything I see for this machine!

      Posted by Teresa Ascenzi | November 7, 2013, 11:48 am
      • I know nothing about the bagel cutter, sorry. It really is a shame that this machine and others with the same mechanism have been discontinued, since any fool (like me) can make great pasta with just a little practice. Good luck, and save all the spare parts you can find!

        Posted by Bob Gelber | November 7, 2013, 2:58 pm
  3. I am interested in purchasing this…Where do I go??? Mary

    Posted by Mary Palmer | December 8, 2011, 2:50 pm
  4. WHERE CAN I BUY THIS MACHINE?

    Posted by KOODO | June 7, 2013, 6:42 pm
  5. I found one in a local classified sales an one on eBay. I gave one to my sister. This really is one of the best as seen on tv products. It works like a champ

    Posted by Jen crouse | July 11, 2013, 5:36 pm
  6. I’m interested to buy like this machine,coz I love to cook pasta with my own recipe,,where can I buy this machine?

    Posted by Lhena castillo | November 25, 2013, 7:12 am
  7. By any chance are the dies for the Popiel and the Takka interchangeable? I have a Popiel and am thinking of getting a 2nd hand Takka.

    Posted by Mamma | July 9, 2014, 10:30 pm
  8. This is a happy site to see! Thank you soooo much! I really do love mine too! Mine is the one with 24 dies. So many and I have no idea what they all look like when made. I either read or heard the dough consistency is about pea size before extruding, if that helps anyone!

    Would love to see pictures and or videos of other pastas made with this GREAT machine! I’m still learning and probably always will be!

    Pasta Bob, you’ve done a wonderful homage to Mr. Popeil and I hope he has seen your site!!!

    Posted by gayle | January 2, 2015, 6:56 pm
  9. I got this Popeil Automatic Pasta Maker (with 12 dies and everything comes with it) from friend and it looks as 85% new. I made the flour, 2 cups ad in an instruction and mixed. it took more that 10 min for noodle to extrude. Did I do something wrong? please help. Thanks
    Tammy

    Posted by Tammy Woo | August 21, 2016, 11:33 am
  10. Hi Tammy, That sounds like longer than normal, but it’s hard for me to say. If you mixed the ingredients according to the instructions that’s not a problem. You didn’t mention an egg, as I recall there should be an egg added. The key trick is to know when to stop mixing and start extruding. This is something you only get down with trial and error. You keep your eye on the mix, and when it looks sort of like lots of rice floating on the mix then it’s about time. If I were to guess, perhaps it was a thicker mix causing it to take longer to extrude, then you might try starting the extrusion sooner. Keep trying, it will get easier and you will soon be an expert. Be happy you’ve got this machine, they are impossible to find these days! Have fun.

    Posted by Bob Gelber | August 21, 2016, 4:03 pm

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