Chef making fresh pasta at Five Four One

Serving farm-to-table dishes at Oregon State University

How long does it take to make a bowl of pasta? For most home cooks, the answer is just a few minutes. For a farm to table restaurant like Five Four One, it takes all year.

Grown Close to Home

Five Four One, whose name comes from the local telephone area code for the region surrounding Corvallis, focuses on sourcing its ingredients as locally as possible. That means the flour for its pasta comes from hard red spring wheat that’s grown by the Hunton family on their third-generation family farm in Junction City, half an hour south of Corvallis. According to what’s in season, veggies from the campus garden and Beaver Cheese from the college dairy are among the options guests can add to their dish.

“For me, starting with quality ingredients and ingredients with integrity is one of the most important parts of building a dish,” says Dale Lawson, chef de cuisine at Five Four One. “Your end result will always reflect the quality of the ingredients that you started with."

Crafted with Care

The production kitchen at McNary Dining Center is a busy place, full of black-coated chefs prepping meals and orderly racks of spices and seasonings. Smack in the middle of it all are rows of shining steel commercial mixers, just like the ones you’d find on the counter in any home kitchen--except big enough for a toddler to sit comfortably inside. Around the corner, a gleaming pastamaker.

The Five Four One chefs use these workhorse machines to blend the Hunton family’s Camas Country Mills flour with an organic semolina flour and other natural ingredients to create something special:  fresh, made-from-scratch pasta noodles.

UHDS chefs make many different types of pasta at Five Four One--from long Fettucine noodles hand-cut to the proper length, to tube-shaped Rigatoni and even house-made Ramen for this term’s Sunday night Ramen bar. After the fresh pasta is shaped with the machine, it’s cooled, stored, and used within 3-4 days.

Cooked from Scratch

When guests step up to order pasta at Five Four One, here’s what they see: an array of fresh vegetables, some of them grown just 200 feet from the kitchen in OSU’s Callahan Food Forest; four different kinds of sauces; and a variety of optional protein, from diced roast chicken to vegan proteins like legumes and seitan.

After selecting their ingredients and sauce, guests can watch as a chef sautees their custom-made meal and carefully pours steaming pasta onto a waiting plate.

To the guest, the entire process would appear to take just minutes from start to finish. But the farmers, gardeners, and chefs behind the meal know better.

The wheat used in these dishes travel a total of 33 miles from where it was grown and milled at the Hunton family’s Camas Country Mill, an old-fashioned grist mill that grinds the wheat using enormous mill stones rather than steel machinery. The ancient technique takes longer, but produces a more nutritious flour.

From farm to mill to kitchen to plate, each plate of pasta represents more than six months of work and craftsmanship. That’s a lot of labor for some noodles.

But for the farmers at Camas Country Mill and the chefs at Five Four One, it’s a labor of love.

“Yes, making food this way is more labor-intensive than serving pre-packaged items,” Chef Lawson says. “But that’s okay. It’s all part of our mission to support local growers and serve our guests the freshest, most nutritious meal we can offer.”

Take a peek behind the scenes and watch our video of pasta-making in action.

Want to try Five Four One's pasta for yourself? Check the hours or see what's on today's menu.