Tortelli with Wild Boar and Stinging Nettles

A little danger in the kitchen can pay off royally – high flames, sharp knives and occasionally some tricky ingredients serve as the makings for many a glorious supper.  Stinging nettles are not nearly as dangerous as they sound assuming that you can play by the rules.  Handled raw, they will mess you up with vicious barbs in your skin.  But once you give them a luxurious bath in some boiling hot water, they lose all their bite.  Why mess with them at all?  Because these lovely greens have an earthy, nuttiness that kicks the ass of spinach any day.

The nettles take a lovely home as the filling for meat tortelli – wild boar is simmered until perfectly tender and blended with mortadella, pancetta and cheese.  Wrapped in homemade pasta and dressed with a light sauce of cream and peas, underneath the delicate flavors lies an air of mystery and danger.  As your guests tuck into these toothsome parcels, feel free to keep the secret of your forays into adventure with the exotic ingredients contained in this recipe.  I mean, you are pretty much the next 007 of the kitchen.  Or at least that’s what I hear.

This recipe makes a large amount of pasta, so feel free to freeze any leftovers for later.  Spread the tortelli on a cookie sheet dusted with semolina and pop into the freezer, making sure that none of the pasta is touching.  If you’re sick of cream sauce for your second go round with these guys, you can use a marinara or vodka sauce to mix things up.  Or, even better, cook in a pot of chicken stock for an exemplary tortellini en brodo (tortellini soup).  For leftover filling, make crepes or buy egg roll wrappers and make canneloni.  Roll a few tablespoons of filling into the wrappers, top with bechamel or marinara and bake in the oven until bubbly, about 30 minutes.

Recipe for

Tortelli with Wild Boar and Stinging Nettles

1 tbs. olive oil
2 tbs. butter
1 lb. ground wild boar
2 c. of chicken stock
1/2 onion
3 oz. of pancetta
6 oz. of mortadella
4 eggs
2 c. of grated locatelli
1/4 tsp. of nutmeg
1 tsp. of ground sage
1/8 tsp. of ground rosemary
1 shallot, finely diced
8 oz. of stinging nettles, blanched and chopped
1/4 tsp. of white pepper
salt to taste

1 c. of cake flour
2 c. of all-purpose flour
4 eggs
pinch of salt
1 tsp. of olive oil

2 tbs. of butter
2 tbs. of flour
2 c. of heavy cream
1 c. of milk
1 c. of locatelli, grated
1/8 tsp. white pepper
salt to taste
1 c. of green peas

Optional Equipment
pressure cooker
stand mixer with dough blade
pasta attachment for stand mixer
3 in. ring mold

Begin by making the meat filling.  Melt the butter and olive oil in a dutch oven.  Add the ground boar and onions and cook until the meat is no longer pink.  Add the chicken stock and simmer on medium-low until all liquid has evaporated, about an hour.  Alternatively, you can cook this mixture in the pressure cooker for 15 minutes to save time.  Allow to cool a bit and set aside.

In a food processor, add the mortadella, pancetta, nettles, rosemary and shallots and chop finely.  Add the wild boar and blitz until a smooth puree.  Remove mixture to a large bowl and add the eggs, cheese, nutmeg, sage and white pepper.  Taste for salt (should be on the saltier side) and reseason.  Set aside.

Now to make the dough – and feel free to use your favorite pasta recipe (or pre-made pasta sheets to save time).  In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the flour and the salt.  Make a well in the middle and add the eggs and olive oil.  Fit the mixer with the dough blade and allow to mix until a slightly sticky but well-mixed dough forms.  Dust the countertop with flour and knead until smooth.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for about an hour.

Before I start making tortelli, I like to set up a couple of elements to make the job easier:

  • a small bowl of water for sealing the edges of the pasta
  • a few cookie sheets lined with wax paper and dusted with flour (semolina works well)
  • a little mound of flour to dip the bottoms of each tortelli in after they are rolled (which prevents them from sticking to the wax paper)

Once your prep space is set up, start with the pasta dough.  Take out the dough and cut into four segments.  Grab a hunk of dough and dust with flour, leaving the other three segments wrapped in plastic so as not to allow them to get hard.  Run the dough through a pasta maker, starting with the widest setting and working your way down to the second to thinnest setting (on my pasta machine, that’s #7).  Flour the counter and lay out the sheet of dough.  Cut out circles using a ring mold.

To make the tortelli, take a pasta round and fill with a few teaspoons of the filling.  Brush the edge with a little bit of water and fold into a half moon, pushing out any excess air as you seal the edges.  Take the two points of the half moon and fold them in on each other, squeezing them together to seal.  Dip the bottom of the tortelli in the flour and then place on the cookie sheet.  Repeat until you run out of dough.

Put a large pot of water on to boil.  While it’s warming up, make your sauce.  Melt the butter in a saucepan.  Mix in the flour and stir to form a paste.  Slowly stir in the milk and cream in dribs and drabs, constantly whisking to form a smooth sauce.  Crank the heat up and keep on whisking until the sauce thickens.  Stir in the locatelli, white pepper and salt and turn heat down to low to keep warm while the pasta cooks.

Once the water comes to a boil, drop in the tortelli.  Once they’ve cooked for 3 minutes, toss the peas into the water.  Allow to cook for a mere 30 seconds, and then drain.  Toss the pasta with the sauce, making sure to be careful not to break any of the tortelli, and serve immediately.