Bainbridge Island Girls’ Night Out – Fresh Ricotta Recipe & Ravioli in Nettles Pesto

Italian Inspirations:  Ricotta & Ravioli demos at The Berry Patch Kitchen Store

Fun and Tasty Ricotta and Ravioli demo at The Berry Patch kitchen store…

A few months ago, I finally gave up hope of finding my old citrus reamer and decided to head into Winslow to purchase a new one. As I walked into the Berry Patch kitchen store, I immediately remembered how dangerous a place full of handy culinary tools, beautiful linens, ceramics, knives, dishes and flatware, etc., can be for us cooks, foodies and kitchen gadget addicts… But I found what I was looking for and decided to limit my purchase to one item per trip–a somewhat futile attempt to curb my tendency to accumulate “necessary” kitchen gear.

Long story short-ish, I was chatting with the owner, Jane Pomeroy, about the menu I was planning for an Italian Dinner Experience and she mentioned that if I didn’t already have an Italian Inspirations demo scheduled for the annual Girls’ Night Out event (Thursday, May 10th), I should think about using her store as a location. So, I decided to share a simple recipe for fresh ricotta cheese and then use that cheese to fill fresh ravioli. At the time, I was undecided as to which kind of sauce to top them with (sage-butter or fresh pesto?), but I figured that both items would provide a tasty bit of entertainment and, possibly, draw more ladies into the store.

So, when the time came to buy groceries for my demo, I went to the Bainbridge Island Farmers Market for the fresh items. When I saw wild-harvested fresh nettles I knew what needed to happen… I decided to make a springtime-fresh nettles pesto and reap the myriad benefits of those devilish garden weeds that so conveniently happen to be edible! They contain lots of calcium, vitamin A, vitamin K and iron, and they are often used to ease allergy symptoms, joint pain and stress! Overall, the day was a success and I am very glad to have been a part of the fun energy and events that took place on an amazingly sunny and warm spring day in the Pacific Northwest! Here are a few photos of my demo and a copy of the recipes… Enjoy!

Ladies sampling the fresh ricotta on crostini while watching the making of ricotta ravioli
Ricotta-filled ravioli, ready to cook
After blanching and shocking the nettles (no longer stinging), I finely chopped them (shown here). Then, I added roughly chopped pine nuts, grated parmigiano reggiano, organic extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper…il pesto è pronto!
The cooked ravioli were tossed in the nettles pesto with a little cooking water…
And they are ready to eat! One last hit of parmigiano grated on top, a drizzle of oil and I served the ravioli to my patient audience. As the delicately spring-flavored ravioli disappeared, the word quickly spread to other ladies out on the town and nearby store owners. So, I had to make another batch right away!
Alison, one of my Italian Inspirations language students, recently returned from a trip to Italy (note the fab hand-made leather bag!) and graciously assisted me during the ravioli-making demo. Grazie mille!

Ricotta Recipe
(for photos of ricotta-making and a ravioli recipe, see Girls Night In)

Ingredienti – Ingredients
1 Gallon Whole Milk
1 Cup Cream, optional
1 lb. Fresh Lemons + 1 Tbsp. vinegar (any will do, but I like lemon white balsamic)

Utensili – Tools
Large Stainless Steel Pot
Strainer/Collander lined with Cheesecloth
Wooden Spoon and Slotted Spoon
Containers for storing whey, optional (ice cube trays work well for freezing)

Istruzioni – Directions
1. In a large pot, heat milk and cream to approx. 180 degrees F – Stir frequently to prevent milk from sticking to the bottom of the pot and do NOT allow to boil!
2. While milk is heating, juice the lemons into a small bowl.
3. Once milk reaches 180 degrees F, add lemon juice and gently stir up and down until small curds (solids) begin to form.
4. Remove from heat and let rest 5-10 minutes. If whey (liquid) is not clear, gently stir in the vinegar and let rest 5 more minutes.
5. Scoop the curds out of the whey and gently place in collander lined with cheesecloth to drain.
6. For firmer ricotta, allow it to drain a few hours in the fridge. Or, use as a moist spread or filling after initial straining by adding seasonings (savory for crostini or sweet for desserts).
BUON APPETITO!

Pesto di Ortiche – Nettles Pesto Recipe

Ingredienti – Ingredients
1 Large Bunch of fresh Stinging Nettles (handle with heavy-duty gloves or tongs)   (about 1 Cup after blanching to remove the sting…)
1/2 Cup Grated Cheese (parmigiano reggiano, pecorino romano, myzithra, etc.)
2-3 Tbsp Toasted Pine Nuts
1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, add more if needed
Salt and Pepper, to taste
** Personally, I omit Garlic in this pesto because it’ll totally overpower the delicate green flavor of the nettles, but do your thing garlic-fanatics, as I know some of you just can’t live without it.

Utensili – Tools
Tongs (for handling fresh nettles)
Mortar and Pestle or Food Processor

Istruzioni – Directions
1. Using tongs, blanch the nettles and then quickly shock them in an ice bath to maintain bright green color.
2. Squeeze excess liquid out of the nettles (this can be kept to add flavor to the pasta cooking water).
3. Chop Nettles roughly and add to food processor or mortar with Olive Oil and Cheese. Process until desired texture is attained (I like my pesto rustic and a bit chunky, but nettles will get smooth very quickly).
4. Add Pine Nuts last and grind to desired texture.
5. Season as needed, and enjoy on your favorite pasta, gnocchi!


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