Cooking pasta from scratch has many homeowners headed for an early shower. But with soothing praise and a simple design from infomercial giant Ron Popeil, al dente becomes automatic. Popeil introduces his pastamaker with a made-for-TV religious sermon, preaching to the all-female crowd, "You can't make any mistakes with this machine." Part of the truth behind that mantra is the chef's control over his or her ingredients. "For liquid, I could use water," boasts Popeil. "But instead, I'm going to use a little spinach juice." Cue the oohs and aahs. Back when the ad aired in the 1990s, fresh pasta ran at an astronomical balanced-budget price of $7.40 per pound. With the Popeil Automatic Pasta Maker, the cost purportedly plummeted to 25 cents per pound. But the truly retro touch came at checkout time: "Don't have a credit card? No problem. Use your checkbook."