First Signs of Spring Recipes

Nettle, spinach and wild greens tortellini

Today we’re trying our hand at fresh pasta! We’ll fill it with a mixture of greens and cheese. We’re going to serve it in a bowl of vegetable broth – in Italian this is dish is called ‘tortellini in brodo’. 

Serves 3

For the pasta:

300g flour

3 eggs

water (for folding)

For the filling:

3 packed cups of fresh stinging nettle leaves or other greens – we also have spinach and tri-cornered leek 

100 grams of ricotta cheese

100 grams of a sharper cheese  – eg. goats cheese, parmesan or Lancashire would be nice

30 grams of nuts eg almonds or pine nuts

salt and pepper

olive oil

For the broth:

A handful of whole fresh mint leaves

Water from blanching the nettles

Chicken or veg broth (we have homemade veg broth today

Grated Parmesan cheese

To make the fresh pasta, make a little mountain of flour on a clean surface and make a well in the centre. Crack your eggs into the well, add a pinch of salt, and with a fork begin gently mixing the eggs, slowly incorporating the flour as you go. When it becomes too thick to work with the fork, begin working with your hands. You may not need all the flour depending on the size of the eggs, the humidity of the day, etc. So as soon as it is workable with hands, you can leave the rest of the flour to the side, as adding too much flour will make it tough. Knead the dough well for about 10 minutes, until it’s  lovely and elastic – give it a poke with your finger, it should simply bounce back. Wrap your dough in plastic and let it rest for about 30 minutes.

In the meantime, put on a large pot of water to boil and prepare your greens. 

Nettles: grab a good pair of thick rubber gloves and pick off the best, young leaves from the stalks. Rinse them well.

Rinse tri -cornered leek well

Add greens to the pot of boiling water with a teaspoon of salt and blanch for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Reserving the water for later, remove the leaves with a slotted spoon or tongs and rinse them under cold water or plunge them into a bowl full of ice cold water to stop the blanching process.

Add the blanched nettles, pine nuts, ricotta, cheese, salt and freshly ground pepper to a food processor or blender and with a drizzle of olive oil, blend to a paste. The mixture should be very thick and easy to handle. Roll teapoon-sized balls of the mixture for your tortellini (damp hands help) and set them aside.

Now it’s time to roll out your pasta. If you have a pasta rolling machine, this is easy. Without one, a trusty rolling pin will be able to do it as well. It will be easier to work in several batches. As the dough can dry out quickly, work one batch at a time, keeping the rest covered. Roll your dough to 1mm thickness or until you can see your fingers through the underside. Cut into 10x10cm squares. Pop a ball of filling in the middle of the square, and with a little bit of water on two of the edges, fold into a triangle and bring the two corners together with another dab of water, like a little man folding his hands on his lap.

Heat equal amounts of stock and reserved nettle/greens water together (you can strain this if you notice any impurities left after blanching the greens), add salt if needed. When the broth is boiling, add the tortellini and cook for about 2-3 minutes or until they are floating. Divide into bowls and serve with a fresh grating of Parmesan cheese and whole mint leaves.

Wild Garlic or tri-cornered leek pesto

100g wild garlic

50g Parmesan grated

50g nuts or seeds – I’d use almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, cashews,  pine nuts or pumpkin/sunflower seeds (not peanuts/brazil nuts)

olive oil

lemon juice, to taste

salt and pepper

Wash your wild garlic/tri-cornered leek thoroughly. and blitz up in a food processor if you have one. You can also do this in a mortar and pestle! 

Add your cheese and wizz again. If you don’t have parmesan, try another hard cheese!

Now add your nuts, and some oiil. Keep adding oil till it reaches your desired consistency.

Check seasoning – add salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. 

Wild Garlic or tri-cornered leek butter

butter (at room temperature)

wild garlic, finely chopped

Mix wild garlic into butter! You can form it into a log shape, and wrap in wax paper to keep in the fridge and use as needed.