As an avid hiker, I've always thought of stinging nettles as a trail nuisance to be avoided at any cost. It's only recently that I realized how delicious they can be if handled carefully. Now, instead of seeing a pernicious weed, I see a beautiful -- and tasty! -- sign of spring. Apparently, nettles are actually great for you -- they're full of all kinds of vitamins and minerals. I've also read that nettle tea (which is basically what the "brodo" here is), helps with seasonal allergies. How smart is that? This plant emerges right when you need it the most!
To pick them yourself, make sure you wear clothing that covers you as much as possible and, most importantly, gloves. Or you can just do as I did in this case and buy a bag of them from the farmers' market. In either case, when you're handling them raw in the kitchen wear gloves and use tongs. Once they've been blanched, though, they're safe to handle. - vrunka —vrunka
Test Kitchen Notes
This beautiful dish is refreshing, delicate and cleansing; it was literally like eating that spring time smell of freshly cut grass! The mint is absolutely wonderful in the broth, but I thought the garlic covered the delicate taste of the nettle a bit too much; so next time I would use just a half to one clove. It's also nice with a grating of good Parmesan cheese on top, like for traditional Tortellini in Brodo. If you're serving it as a starter, it would easily serve 6. - Emiko —Emiko
fresh nettle leaves (packed fairly tightly, some stems are OK)
Wearing gloves, rinse your nettles well in a colander. Look for any stowaways or stray weeds.
Bring about 3-4 quarts of water and salt to a boil. Using tongs, grab bunches of nettles and submerge them in the water. Blanch for about 20-30 seconds. Remove nettles and drain in a colander and reserve about 2 cups of the nettle cooking water (optional).
Once they're cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much water as you can with your bare hands (you don't need gloves any more!). Add the nettles, pine nuts, garlic, salt and pepper and olive oil to a food processor and process until fairly smooth. Remove to a bowl and stir in goat cheese until it's fully incorporated and you don't see any white streaks.
Set up a work space with your wonton wrappers, nettle filling and a little dish of water. Also have a baking sheet and a tea towel nearby so you can set your completed tortellini on the sheet and keep them covered with a towel while you work.
Take one wonton wrapper and drop a scant teaspoon of the filling onto the center. Dab the edge of the circle with water. Fold the wrapper in half and you now have a semi-circle. Press your finger into the middle of the bottom of the semi-circle and bring the two corners together. Press firmly and look at that: tortellini! (Watch my tortellini folding demonstration here: http://goo.gl/QWlnO) Continue with the rest of the tortellini.
In a large pot (4+ quarts) bring to boil the reserved nettle water and chicken broth (or water). Drop about half the tortellini in the water and cook at a low boil for about 5 minutes. You don't want them to get too crowded so you may have to work in smaller batches depending on how large your pot is. Remove tortellini and repeat with the remaining ones.
Equally divide tortellini and broth among 4 bowls, top with a squeeze of fresh lemon, a sprinkling of shredded fresh mint leaves and a drizzle of very good olive oil. Buon appetito!