By Ibti Vincent, FoodPrints Lead Teacher
“Who here has made pasta from scratch?” the chef asked. About five hands shot into the air.
“Okay. Wow. That’s pretty good. But, now, I don’t mean that you took spaghetti noodles out of the box and boiled it. How many have made pasta out of flour and eggs?” One hand stayed raised.
Chef Ethan McKee was getting a sense of his students. He could see right off that they were good listeners and excited participants, but I bet he had no idea how awesome they would be at making pasta.
Last week, 30 fifth graders from the School Without Walls at Francis-Stevens Elementary took a walking field trip a few blocks away to Urbana, a popular Dupont Circle restaurant specializing in Italian food. It was a real treat.
You see, normally, FoodPrints sessions are presented to our various schools as “in-school” field trips. Sure, the teachers are pretty accomplished cooks and instructors, but this time, class was taught by a professional chef, in a beautiful restaurant located in the Hotel Palomar -- it was the result of a wonderful collaboration between Urbana, FRESHFARM’s FoodPrints program, and a DC public elementary school.
Before walking the four blocks to Urbana, the students harvested spinach (grown from seed!) along with kale, oregano, thyme, and chives in their school garden.
The students -- along with their classroom teacher, FoodPrints interns, and a few parent volunteers -- were greeted at Urbana by Executive Chef McKee with enthusiasm and aprons. There would be a lot of flour involved in today’s hands-on lesson, so the aprons were a welcome addition to our usual FoodPrints setup.
After washing our hands well -- that certainly didn’t change from our normal FoodPrints procedure -- we got to work at the five workstations Urbana’s team had set up. Before their eyes, students transformed a volcano of flour and eggs into smooth pasta dough.
We worked in teams to roll out the dough, passing it again and again through a pasta roller. I think our longest piece was over 12 feet long!
Some became fettuccine noodles, while other sheets were set aside for ravioli.
As we finished rolling out our pasta sheets, the amicable sous chef used sauteed our homegrown greens with shallots and garlic, which we stirred with some fresh ricotta to make the ravioli filling. Then Chef Ethan showed us the delicate process of filling, folding, and cutting our pillowy packets. You want to see a ten-year-old focus? Hand him a tube of ravioli filling and a sheet of fresh pasta!
As our noodles boiled -- fresh pasta takes just moments to cook to perfection -- we got cleaned up. Class ended with a feast. Chef Ethan and his team brought out pizzas, followed by bowls of our homemade pastas: spinach and kale ravioli in tomato sauce and fettuccine tossed in herb butter. (“Pizza, too?!” I think the 5th grade boys almost fainted from excitement. There were NO leftovers.)
Many thanks to the team at Urbana for making this most fun field trip possible. We hope to continue this fun and delicious partnership!