At Urbana, learn to make pasta like the pros

Ethan McKee, executive chef at Urbana, puts puts the finishing touches on a plate of fresh pasta. (Courtesy Urbana)
Ethan McKee, executive chef at Urbana, puts the finishing touches on a plate of fresh pasta. Starting Oct. 8, McKee will launch a second year of cooking demonstrations at the Italian restaurant in Dupont Circle. (Courtesy Urbana)

Executive Chef Ethan McKee rolls out sheets of fresh pasta at Urbana. Every day, McKee makes between six to eight different types of fresh pasta for Urbana’s menu — from bucatini to tagliatelle to ravioli. And this month, he’s preparing to teach the public how to do the same. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)

McKee says homemade pasta is easy to make at home. All you need is eggs and flour, plus a fork and a rolling pin. If you want to upgrade to a pasta machine (pictured), you can find a decent one for about $40 at most cooking stores. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)

 

A common mistake people make when making homemade pasta is not rolling the dough thin enough. McKee says you want to get it to the point where it’s almost see-through. If you’re stuffing the pasta, don’t worry about it tearing. He says each time the pasta is rolled through the machine, the gluten strengthens it. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)

McKee fills his pasta with a mixture of sheep’s-milk ricotta and Swiss chard, cut from the restaurant’s rooftop garden. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)

He makes a line of filling down the sheet of pasta, then paints a line of egg parallel to the filling. This helps to hold the pasta dough together when it is folded over. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)

To make agnolotti, McKee pinches off pieces of the filled pasta and then folds it over before cutting it. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)

McKee holds up the final product: a small pocket-like pasta called agnolotti. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)

On Oct. 8, Urbana is launching its second cooking demo series. In classes capped at 14, McKee will teach participants how to make seasonal Italian classics, such as gemelli with taleggio cream and pancetta, and polenta with roasted quail, house-made pancetta and figs. The end goal, McKee says, is to equip participants with the confidence they need to make pasta in their own kitchens. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)

The rooftop garden at the Hotel Palomar in Dupont Circle. McKee uses what he grows in the restaurant’s kitchen. Last year, he says the garden gave him nearly 500 pounds of basil. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)

“That’s kind of the goal with the ingredients up here: I want to be able to just say, ‘Everything we use in the restaurant, we grew 100 percent,’ instead of just having it as a supplement,” McKee said. 

Kale growing on the rooftop garden at the Hotel Palomar in Dupont Circle. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)

Lettuces growing on the rooftop garden at the Hotel Palomar in Dupont Circle. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)

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Ethan McKee, executive chef at Urbana, puts puts the finishing touches on a plate of fresh pasta. (Courtesy Urbana)

WASHINGTON Ethan McKee holds up a piping bag filled with sheep’s-milk ricotta and Swiss chard, which he just cut from the rooftop garden at the Hotel Palomar in Dupont Circle.

“Traditionally, this shape has a meat filling, like a veal filling, but we do a lot of different things with vegetables here,” said McKee, the executive chef at Urbana inside the Palomar.

“Nowadays, there’s a big trend toward that and we try to utilize as much as we can from the garden upstairs.”

McKee pipes the cheesy mixture onto a thin sheet of fresh pasta dough. Then, after a series of pinches, folds and cuts, he holds up the final product: a small pocket-like pasta called agnolotti.  

“This looks like it’s an opening, but actually it’s sealed on the inside there, so that kind of catches the sauce,” McKee said, pointing to the pasta’s signature flap.

Every day, McKee makes between six to eight different types of fresh pasta for Urbana’s menu from bucatini to tagliatelle to ravioli. And this month, he’s teaching the public how to do the same.

On Oct. 8, Urbana is launching its second cooking demo series. In classes capped at 14, McKee will teach participants how to make seasonal Italian classics, such as gemelli with taleggio cream and pancetta, and polenta with roasted quail, house-made pancetta and figs.

Each month through June 2017, McKee will focus his instruction on a different Italian region (like fall harvest in Lombardia and summer in Sicily) or tradition (Feast of Seven Fishes and Italian-style comfort food). And no matter the theme, pasta will spend time in the spotlight.

“Especially going into cooler weather like right now, where you want more of that comfort food, just having rich flavors and textures with fresh egg pasta, you can’t beat it. There’s just no comparison,” he said.

In each class, held twice a month, McKee will demonstrate three different dishes, spending about 30 minutes on each. Those enrolled will have the opportunity to get their hands dirty in the kitchen with McKee and ask questions throughout. Of course, they’ll also be able to sip on wine and taste the end product.

The end goal, McKee says, is to equip participants with the confidence they need to make pasta in their own kitchens.

“I think now people really want to know how to cook at home and use local ingredients and cook from scratch,” he said. “We give out recipes, and all you need to have to make [pasta] is basically a fork and a rolling pin.”

And a little bit of guidance.

Classes are $55 per person and reservations can be made via email at abbe.gould@urbanadc.com.

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