Nettle and wild garlic ravioli

Brennnessel und Bärlauch Ravioli
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Every year I wait with great anticipation for the first spring green to poke its head out of the forest floor so that I can be among the first to pick the best that nature has to offer and conjure up delicious bites out of it. For one of my favorite specialties, I use a stubborn weed and an onion shoot that can be found in most deciduous climates: nettle and wild garlic. The Italian names for these two are so much more romantic: ortica & aglio dell'orso ... and they are truly a match made in heaven.

I made these wonderful nettle and wild garlic ravioli last year, and it was a huge hit with our household. I will repeat them in about two weeks when the first shoots appear. It's a late start to spring here in the Black Forest, and I can't wait to start gardening.

Foraging is the most wonderful way of getting food. In Italy it is a fine art, and in spring you can find women in the fields all over the country looking for special vegetables. Recognizing greens is something that is passed down from generation to generation. In Piedmont, the green is mainly used for the Easter frittata, a symphony of wild sorrel, wild spinach, lamb's lettuce, dandelion and many other herbs, which is mixed with eggs and parmesan and gratinated.

I start by picking the nettles (with gloves, please!) and the wild garlic. I blanch the nettle leaves (not the ramps) and the histamine, which is so irritating, goes away. Then I finely chop both and toss them briefly in a hot pan with olive oil and a garlic. After they cool, I mix them with salt, pepper and just enough ricotta to hold them together.

I make my pasta exactly as my friend Letizia Mattiacci describes it in her cookbook " Kitchen with a View ", which, if you haven't already, is an Italian cooking Bible. Her latest book, Festa Italiana , pays homage to Italian festivals and their special dishes - and I've already made some of the recipes and they're all delicious!

I roll out the pasta very thinly by hand, with the large roller in the photo on the right. I also use a pasta machine, but there's something very satisfying about being able to roll out the pasta dough by hand and see through it.

Then I coat the pasta with the ravioli filling, close and cut it.

A lot of semolina flour on the marble prevents the pasta from sticking.

Fresh ravioli are cooked in seconds. One minute in boiling water and they bubble on the surface. I made them last year with a light sauce of roasted cherry tomatoes and garlic blossom. It was a feast!

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