fiddlehead fern tortellini with nettle pesto

fiddlehead fern tortellini

If there’s one thing I can’t ever eat my fill of, it’s sugar. Oops, no, we talk about that all the time. What I meant to say, was pasta. Chewy, wonderful, homemade pasta. It is my absolute favorite.

Long long ago last month, back when there was still snow on the ground, I caught myself salivating at the thought of foraging for fiddlehead ferns. Well, now is the time, and there is no time like the present. Haste makes waste for good eating. And other such foodie proverbs.

I had the genius idea to stuff homemade pasta with garlic-buttered fiddleheads as I was on Mile 265 (approximately) of snowshoeing for the winter. Now snowshoeing is but a distant memory, as is this pasta dish. Thank goodness I still have tons of fiddleheads frozen from last year…


The past few weeks have been weeks of big change. I am trying out contacts for the first time. Ever. I am subsequently trying to push glasses up on my glasses-less nose about fifteen times per day. I just tried to do exactly that, thinking I’d act a bit facetious and then, oh so humorously, tell you about it. Turns out I actually am wearing glasses today. Moving on.

I got an iPhone. Dude, how long have I been waiting to Instagram my life away? About five weeks. I lie, it’s more like five months. Or a year. Or more. Moving on.

I decided that wiling away my evening hours reading a 1987 romance novel entitled “Strictly Business” was a good idea. Turns out when you’re a 1987 romance novel, you settle for one (1) passionate stolen/unwanted kiss, and a marriage proposal. After the Strictly Business debacle, I decided to stick with my modus operandi and read 1967’s “Episode in Rome,” by the forgotten Teri Lester. Part of an enticing Double Romance(!), the first sign of trouble was when the words Strictly business appeared on page 7. Not to be deterred, I finished the story off in a few hours, again settling for a kiss (this time on the forehead) and a marriage proposal. I wish I could say I won’t, but I’ll probably dig into “Sylvia’s Daughter” once I finish up with this post.

fiddleheads and nettles

Had I found more nettles, I would have incorporated them into the pasta dough as well, because nettle pasta is tasty. But since they were only starting to shoot up last weekend, I found just enough to make a pesto.

Yes, by nettles I mean stinging nettles, those awful plants that make your skin itch if you touch them. When young, they can be picked and eaten no problem, and they are quite tasty. Just be sure to wear gloves while harvesting, and to blanch them before eating.

Fiddlehead Fern Tortellini with Nettle Pesto {recipe by myself}

Serves 2-4

Fiddlehead Fern Tortellini:

2 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6-8 c. fresh fiddleheads, cleaned (brown chaff removed)

In a large frying pan, melt butter over low medium heat. When hot, add garlic and fiddleheads. Cook, stirring and flipping occasionally, ten to fifteen minutes. Set aside to cool. Note: some sources recommend blanching fiddleheads prior to sauteeing them, for safety’s sake. Do this if you are concerned about food safety (especially if you purchased fiddleheads rather than foraged for them).

1 c. flour
1/4 c. semolina flour
2 eggs
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt

In a large bowl, combine flours. Make a small well, cracking into it the 2 eggs, and adding the olive oil and salt. Mix by hand until the mixture comes together. Turn out onto a lightly-floured surface, and knead for five to ten minutes, until dough is smooth. If the dough is too dry, add a small amount of extra oil. If the dough is too moist, add some more all-purpose flour – depending on the day’s temperature and humidity, I have to alter my ingredient proportions slightly.

Let dough rest in the bowl, covered, for one hour. On a clean countertop, roll out a quarter of the dough at a time. Roll dough as thinly as possible (this is difficult). Alternately, use a pasta machine if you have one to roll your dough out extra thin (if you do this, you may need to cook an extra 2 c. fiddleheads or more). Using a 2 1/2″ biscuit cutter or glass, cut out dough rounds.

Not possessing a pasta machine, I gave each dough round a final roll with the rolling pin. Fill dough rounds with two to three fiddleheads, depending on size. Flip top half of dough over bottom half, and press to seal. Bring corners together, one over the other, and seal tightly. Repeat with remaining dough rounds, and with remaining quarters of dough, meanwhile bringing a salted pot of water to the boil.

Boil tortellini for two to three minutes – it won’t take long to cook the dough.

Nettle Pesto:

2 very tightly packed c. nettle leaves
Heaping 1/2 c. walnuts
Heaping 1/3 c. Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp olive oil (more if needed)
Salt, to taste

In a pot of boiling water, briefly blanch nettle leaves (no longer than 4-5 minutes). Set aside to drain and cool. Combine all ingredients except salt in a food processor, and pulse until homogenized. Add additional oil if mixture is too dry. Add salt to taste.

fiddlehead fern tortellini

48 thoughts on “fiddlehead fern tortellini with nettle pesto

  1. What a great way to use fiddleheads! Wow! This is a top shelf meal.

  2. I can’t get fiddleheads where I’m at – and so I’m utterly jealous. is that disappointment I hear about the romance novels? (I tend to like mine with a little more action than a little caring peck on the head)

    1. Yeahhhh, that was disappointment. I just expected so much more!

      What a bummer that you can’t get fiddleheads! But I bet there are tasty foraged substitutes?

      1. there is very little foraging to be done in singapore – it’s a densely urban environment where there isn’t much edible growth. (+cars and the equation becomes even more unviable!)

        the best bet is crazy-expensive supermarkets :(

        1. Oh, that is so sad, foraging is one of my favorite things – it’s like making money. How far do you need to go before you’ve escaped the influence of the city?

          1. there isn’t anything but city! we’re tiny, so it’s just a business district, suburbs of high-rise apartment buildings and some industrial/farm estates.

            we’re a green city (almost ironically) with parks and flowering plants, but very little naturally (and wildly) grows here of an edible description :( you’re very lucky!

            1. Oh don’t I know it! I’m so lucky. There are advantages to city life that I miss out on big time, though:)

  3. Oh, I was reading about being able to buy fiddleheads in NY just the other day and it made me think of you and then lo and behold you pop up with another exotic sounding recipe. Although fiddleheads are not something I can see myself getting my hands on, I do believe I will have to try making my own tortellini, these look delicious!

    1. Hehe, leave it to me to sneak attack you with foraged healthy goodness just when you think I’m overflowing with sugary sweets!

      I bet there are plenty of lovely *authentic Australian* substitutes that you could incorporate into some tasty tortellini!

  4. I ADORE fiddleheads! ADORE! Those tortellini are smashing.

    Also, I used to wear contacts and they are the bomb – you’ll love ’em once you get used to them. I’m old now, and my astigmatism is such that I can’t get them anymore. Also, I have to wear MULTI-FOCAL glasses. Cripes.

    Finally, I’m so glad you have an iPhone, and those novels are dodgy at best.

    1. I adore fiddleheads too, they are just so incredibly fresh.

      I’m slowly getting used to the contacts, and sure enough, I am loving them. It’s so incredible to be able to see clearly, without having a huge box thing on my face!

      Dodgy novels are my favorite novels;)

  5. Girl, i knew the fiddleheads would make an appearance; it’s like i knew it in my HEART. My cousin is vacationing in Oregon from AZ right now, and declared her love of ferns whilst posting a pic of what looked to be a fiddlehead; it reminded me of you. I’m going to really search for these at the farmers’ markets around here this year, because i KNOW THEY ARE THERE SOMEWHERE.

    1. Yeah, you knew it:)

      I love ferns so much. Fern dinnerware. Ferns in the freezer. Fern tattoo. Ferns on my mind, all the time.

      Did you find any?

      1. i have not, as of yet. i’m holding out hope? someone has to have them. i should ask the other local food bloggers.

    1. They are sophisticated! But also down to earth taste-wise, if that makes sense.

      It’s okay, I will be enough of a pasta person for the both of us:)

  6. Emma, your fiddlehead and nettle pasta is so up my alley. Love both of those flavors and man those ferns are so cute wrapped up into torellinni – genius indeed.
    I though you might find this interesting… I recently found out that you don’t have to blanch nettles before eating ( something I’ve always done.) Supposedly, if raw nettles are pureed the sting goes away. Cool tidbit eh?
    Wishing you well!

    1. Aren’t they such little cuties? I spent some time just admiring their good looks before digging in!

      That is very cool to learn about not blanching nettles prior to eating. I’ve actually considered trying it out (not having heard before what you shared here), but chickened at the last second. Next time:)

      xo, hope you are loving spring!

  7. As someone who was born in 1987 and seems to be pretty nothing but tremendously single always, that whole kiss->marriage=happily-ever-after, well… I’d take it. (Not really.) (Maybe.) (Not really.)

    You know how you said you wanted to jet over to Canada straight away? I want to jet over to you. I have still never ever (felt so low, when you gonna get me out of this black hole?) had fiddlehead ferns or nettles.

    Also I’m about to have to pay exorbitant amounts to get Dad to buy more contacts for me and express-speedy-send them to me here because, after a good ten years of rarely wearing contacts, I now really love them and booo stupid optometrists and their rules.

    Also your photos are so stunning.

    Also all of this means I like you yep.

    1. Yeah, maybe I’d take it too, not really, maybe, not really?

      No fiddleheads, no nettles? Is it because you spend your days seeking out the world’s most disgusting soda? :) you find such incredible food stuffs.

      Stupid optomestrists! I can’t even imagine what rules you are talking about, but I sure do hope your contacts have arrived speedily and without unnecessary delay.

      I like you yep too yep yep!

  8. I don’t think I’ve ever had a fiddlehead, but your tortellini are GORGEOUS! I love how you can see the whole fiddlehead inside. Hahaha, i’m sorry that romance novel was so tame. Could you imagine if that author had read Fifty Shades of Grey? ;)

    1. Thank you! They are pretty, aren’t they?

      Someone just showed me Fifty Shades of Grey the other weekend, but I haven’t read it. Oh well, time to get to work on my second novella, “Sylvia’s Daughter.” I can already tell that it’s going to suck :P

  9. I have only had glasses for a couple of months but already go to push them up my nose when they’re not there. Ghost-glasses!

    I adore homemade pasta, even though it always takes me forever and every bowl in the house and so on. I wish I could find fiddleheads and nettles to eat with them, not least because they’d make me feel like Eglantine in Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

    Welcome to instagram! And oh my, at 80s romance novels. Jilly Cooper or Jackie Collins will have significantly more, uh, thrust.

    1. Ghost glasses indeed! Glasses are overly possessive of my face, but I don’t mind. They deserve to be, being all adorable and such.

      I don’t know this Jilly Cooper or Jackie Collins you speak of, but I’ll see if there are any by those names in our little woodland cabin library! :)

  10. I have trying fiddleheads on my bucket list. I think I’ll need a long distance vacation to scratch that off.
    Happy Instagraming. I just got one a couple months ago too. It feels good to be a part of society again.

    1. Yes, any fiddleheads sprouting in your area must be crazy heat-resistant hybrids!

      It sure does feel good to be part of society, I agree. What is your Instagram user name? I’d love to follow you:)

  11. Wow, my little darlin’, GENIUS TIME! These look spendid! I was just thinking about the batch of fiddleheads you cooked for us(so sad, was it really one year ago?:-( I thought of them as I was raking the back yard, and looking at the fiddleheads coming up, and trying not to break them…
    Ha, ha–that book looks like your typical left-behind cabin book–do you have many more to choose from?
    Lucky girl–contacts=freedom. Whooopieeeeeeeeeee!

    1. It was OVER A YEAR AGO! Time is stupid, and just as overly possessive as glasses (which I mentioned in a comment above).

      I have so so so many books to choose from! Of all book genres. The little library has its own tiny building, so there are books galore.

      FREEDOM CONTACTS! Woooopieeeee:)

  12. oh my word what are you DOING to me with this post? fiddleheads? REALLY?!
    I’m sorry… I don’t mean to yell at you. well I do… but I don’t.

    1. :) I can take long-distance computer yelling! I will be your ingredient-frustration sounding-board! I will also use a plethora of hypenated words.

  13. I must confess that I have never heard of fiddleheads, but the name is reason enough to look them up. The food looks beautiful, and I especially love the plate :)

    1. Thank you Ellie! These plates are one of my most favorite things in my kitchen. I adore maidenhair ferns, they are just so delicate and beautiful.

  14. PS If romance is what your looking for, I’m personally in love with Diana Gabaldon, but the YA subset is also exceptionally good at the angsty love triangle. Some of my faves: Divergent, Uglies, Hunger Games (of course), and Matched.

    1. You nailed it – YA does angsty romance SO WELL!! I’ve never read any of what you mention, I’ll have to see if my library in town has any of these. I’ll also look into Diana Gabaldon, as I’ve never heard of her! Thank you:)

    1. I KNOW! It’s not actually too cold today, but it’s rainy and chilly, and that’s cold enough, and sure thing…. PASTA! Nothing beats it:)

  15. Blerg, totally forgot I hadn’t commented on this yet! Suffice it to say, I’m glad you made a post on these neat leafy-green tortellinis! Tortellini is probably my favorite type of pasta, and I’d be interested in giving something like this a shot. Unfortunately, I don’t know if (a) I have any access to fiddleheads, or (b) if I have the patience to make my own tortellini (lazy-baking powers, activate!). This sounds like one of those projects for which I’d have to mentally prepare myself ahead of time and devote an entire Saturday or Sunday morning to it. O, the drama!

    Speaking of drama…I am not sure what to think about your reading preferences. I find those books confusing. >.>

    PS WELCOME TO THE INTERNET. You now have an excuse to join the Twitters. :D

    1. What about me do you not find confusing?? :P

      Tortellini has actually long been my least favorite type of pasta, due somehow to a childhood dislike of those packaged tortellini from the store, where the pasta part tasted like something very non-pasta like? It still makes me shudder a bit thinking about it. But these…. these! So good.

      But you’re right, they’re very time consuming. I knew what I was getting myself into, and it helps to have a pal to roll out the dough with:)

  16. These look so yummie… and I wouldn’t think about eating ferns and nettle! You are always great for an exe opener

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