The modern Italian restaurant from restaurateurs R.J., Jerrod and Molly Melman, chef/ partner Doug Psaltis, and celebrity couple Giuliana and Bill Rancic is located at 650 K St. NW in the Mount Vernon neighborhood, and we couldn’t be more excited.
Much like its sister restaurant in Chicago, the menu will focus on seasonal ingredients and feature more than a dozen fresh pastas made in-house daily, cicchetti, fresh salads, slow-roasted meats, grilled seafood and fresh fish selections, prime steaks, seasonal specials and of course, Italian classics. The menu is a collaboration between two veterans of Italian cooking, chef/partner Doug Psaltis and executive chef Gabe Thompson.
We chatted with RPM Italian DC’s executive chef Thompson who gave us a glimpse into the thought and technique that goes into making the perfect pasta noodle—from the types of flour, to sauce pairing and so much more.
“On any given day, we probably make anywhere from eight to twelve different pastas in RPM’s kitchen, including extruded noodles, whole wheat and spinach doughs, squid ink and stuffed pastas.”
All good pasta starts with a solid foundation: flour, egg yolk (which adds richness), water and good-quality olive oil.
Types of flour: The different types of flour not only impact flavor but also the texture and consistency of the noodle. Chef Thompson breaks it down for us.
Semolina Flour: “This is perhaps the most common flour used in pasta-making, specifically for our extruded pastas. Semolina is more yellow in color and is a course grind of high-protein durum wheat that gives a nutty, sweet flavor.”
Whole–wheat Flour: “This flour is a powdery substance that comes from grinding the whole grain of wheat or wheat berries. It doesn’t have as much protein as other flour although it absorbs more liquid. When we use whole-wheat flour for pasta, it’s important to increase the amount of moisture or fat we add into the dough so it stays together. It’s a lot of trial and error to make it perfect, but the payoff is amazing. The pasta is more of a dark brown color, and I love the whole wheat flavor of a great farro noodle or buckwheat flour.”
00 Flour (Double Zero): “This is a high-protein, high-gluten flour. The more protein and gluten there is, the better texture and chew the pasta has. The 00 flour refers to Italian-milled flour and basically reflects how finely ground it is and how much of the bran and germ have been removed.”
Now, onto the noodle shape. Believe it or not, the shape is really about functionality, as pasta noodles all hold sauces differently. Here is a snapshot of some of the various noodles you can expect on the RPM Italian – DC menu.
Extruded: “These are the most common pasta shapes. Think spaghetti, bucatini, rigatoni and penne. They are pushed through an extruder— they’re essentially being forced through tiny holes, which compact the dough, making a denser noodle with less fat and liquid. Extruded noodles have a nice bite to them and pair better with a lighter olive oil or tomato-based sauce, which is most often seen in Southern Italian-style cooking.”
A great example of extruded pasta at RPM is our signature Mama DePandi’s Bucatini with Pomodoro and Basil or the Spicy King Crab with Squid Ink Spaghetti.
Hand Rolled: “This is any type of dough that is rolled out by hand, such as orecchiette or cavatelli. Since you are manually shaping these noodles, they tend to be thicker and can stand up to a chunkier, heartier sauce.”
Where can you experience hand-rolled pasta on the RPM menu? Try the Homemade Cavatelli with Pork and Beef Ragu.
Sheeted: “These are your flat noodles—tagliatelle, pappardelle, tajarin—and tend to go best with butter-based sauces or ragus. The fat content of sheeted noodles is higher, which lends itself to hearty sauces.”
Check out the Pappardelle Bolognese with Pecorino and Rosemary.
Stuffed: “Stuffed pastas are made with rich dough and tend to pair best with buttery sauces. These pastas are ones like agnolotti, ravioli and tortellini and can be stuffed with ingredients like cheese, protein, seasonal vegetables and more.”
Main Lobster Ravioli with Spinach Pesto and Lemon or the Sweet Pea Agnolotti with Crispy Prosciutto are two popular stuffed pastas at RPM Italian.
While the thought of making fresh pasta at home may be daunting, here are a few tips and tricks to help you tackle the task.
- Have the right tools handy. In terms of kitchen equipment, the Imperia Hand Crank Pasta Machine has everything you need including cutters on the side. KitchenAid also has a stand mixer attachment used specifically for making pasta.
- Use a food processor to cut dough-making time in half. Once your dough has come together, wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
- Shape dough in batches. Portion out the dough and ensure to keep the pieces you aren’t using covered with plastic wrap or a damp towel so it doesn’t dry out.
- Remember, fresh pasta cooks fast. As soon as pasta is dropped into boiling water, watch it constantly. If the dough was made that day, it will only take approximately 30 – 60 seconds to cook. If the dough is a day or two old, it will be al dente in about two minutes.
RPM Italian will open later this month for dinner service, with weekday lunch service to follow. For more information on RPM restaurants, visit rpmrestaurants.com and follow on Twitter and Instagram at @RPMItalianDC.