In pulling out the bag of stinging nettles tonight -gloves donned!- I realized I also had a beautiful bunch of fresh green garlic. Why not combine the two as the base for the ravioli filling? I diced some shallots and part of one white bulb of garlic and sauteed that in olive oil and salt. When it was nice and wilted, I added in the stinging nettles, and it's all resting in the steamy, covered skillet now. What is this stinging nettle? I had hoped it would be similar to the Ortica, or poison ivy, I enjoyed in Italy. Imagine my thrill to find, during my research earlier, that stinging nettle, a perennial flowering plant, is the best known member of the genus Urtica. They have to be closely related at the least, don't you think? The stinging nettle's leaves and stems are covered with trichomes, stinging hairs that inject histamines and other chemical compounds into people and animals whose skin comes into contact with the nettles when raw. Cooking removes this ability, thus making the nettle safe to eat, and touch.
It's an incredibly nutritious plant -rich in several vitamins, iron, potassium and calcium- with a flavor not unlike spinach. I'm going to finely chop the steamed leaves, stir them + the garlic and shallots with some ricotta, make the ravioli and then make a sage-butter sauce for the top as we were instructed to do in Florence. Here's hoping it's even half as good!