Spring is here! Regardless of nightly frost and occasional hail storms still passing over Holland, what makes it undeniably so is the emergence of wild garlic in our forests, hedgerows and, I’m happy to say, in the shaded corners of my own garden. As wild garlic is one of the first edible things to start growing, to me these tender pointed leaves are the personification of spring. Their oniony, garlicky flavour is now at its best and it’s well worth the effort to look out for them during their short season. If you want to use the occasion for a foraging trip, I put additional info and pictures in this previous wild garlic post. Asking for them at your grocery store or farmer’s market is also a valid option, though. Last year’s spring I used my haul to make wild garlic pesto and focaccia with wild garlic oil. This year I used my first pickings to make a different dish I’m quite excited about: wild garlic tortellini.
These tortellini start at the base, by making fresh pasta dough. There’s something incredibly rewarding in making your own pasta, I think. It’s a wonderfully mindful activity, resulting in pasta with a flavour and texture that’s incomparable to that of shopbought dried pasta. That holds true for lasagna sheets and tagliatelle, but the fun really starts when making filled pasta shapes. Using your own pasta dough you can make the most gorgeous ravioli and tortellini, and you can get creative choosing different fillings, according to your every mood and following the seasons.
For these spring tortellini I made a vibrantly green, zesty filling, using crushed broad beans, sweetpeas, lemon and a generous dose of chopped wild garlic. The wild garlic adds a fresh, punchy flavour, that gets even better when you toss the tortellini with a simple basil oil and serve them with toasted pine nuts and some reserved peas and beans.
That said, the broad beans and peas work so well as a filling for ravioli and tortellini, it would be a pity to limit their use to early spring only. If you can’t get hold of wild garlic, or it’s out of season, you can replace it with spring onions and a chopped clove of garlic. This way you can treat your tastebuds all spring and summer long.
Wild garlic tortellini with broad bean pesto and basil oil – serves 4
for the pasta
- 400 g durum pasta flour 00 (though all-purpose flour makes delicious pasta too)
- 200 ml water
- extra flour, for dusting
for the filling
- 400 g broad beans (I used frozen ones)
- 400 g peas (again, frozen, in my case)
- bunch (20 g) wild garlic leaves, roughly chopped
- zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- salt and pepper, to taste
for the basil oil
- 15 g basil leaves, finely chopped
- 50 ml olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 50 g pine nuts
- extra basil leaves, for garnish
You can make the pasta using only a rolling pin to roll out the dough. However, using a pasta machine makes the process so much easier and that much more enjoyable. If you can invest in one, it will serve you a lifetime. Below I’m describing the preparation using my own old and sturdy pasta maker.
To make the pasta dough, mix the water into the flour and knead to a firm dough. Knead for another few minutes until smooth and elastic, then wrap in clingfilm and chill for half an hour.
Bring a large pan of water to a boil. Tip in the broad beans and cook them for about two minutes. Take the beans out with a slotted spoon and rinse them in cold water. Put the sweetpeas into the boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes until just tender, but still vibrantly green. As you’ll be cooking them again with the pasta later, you don’t want to overcook them at this stage. Drain the peas into a colander and rinse in cold water.
Double pod the broad beans. Reserve 3 tablespoons each of the broad beans and the peas for serving, and transfer the rest to the mixing bowl of a food processor. Add the wild garlic, the lemon zest and lemon juice and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Whizz to a course mass. Taste and stir in some more salt, pepper or lemon juice if necessary, then set aside.
Take a handful of the pasta dough and keep the rest covered in clingfilm to prevent it turning dry. Briefly knead the dough, flatten it in your hand, dust with extra flour and feed it through the widest setting of the pasta machine. Fold the dough in half lengthwise and across, dust with flour again and feed it back through the machine.
Repeat this process until the dough is smooth and elastic and moves through the machine without resistance. Turn the machine to a thinner setting and feed the dough through once or twice, then work down each number until your sheet of dough runs smoothly through the thinnest setting.
Lay your pasta sheet on a dusted work surface and cut it into 8 cm squares. Place a teaspoon of the filling in the middle of each square.
Fold the dough over the filling to make a rectangle, squeeze out any air and seal up the edges, shaping the filling into a half moon bulge.
Fold the rectangle lengthwise so the filling gets a little collar, then twist the sides around your finger and fold them together, pressing firmly to seal the lower end of the collar.
Repeat with the rest of the dough and the filling. Place the shaped tortellini on a dusted plate or tray to dry until needed.
To make the basil oil, stir the chopped basil into the olive oil and season to taste.
Heat a dry frying pan over a medium heat and tip in the pine nuts. Shaking regularly, toast the pine nuts until they start releasing their oil and turn golden. Transfer to a bowl and leave to cool.
Bring a large pan of water to a boil. Cook the tortellini, a few at a time, for 1-2 minutes until they float to the surface. Take them out with a slotted spoon and repeat with the remaining pasta.
Divide the tortellini over four plates. Spoon over the reserved peas and broad beans. Drizzle over the basil oil and serve straight away, scattered with pine nuts and garnished with basil leaves.