Chives grow abundantly in our garden and although the plants, at 3 years old, are a bit tougher and woodier than I’d like they still put forth a beautiful crown of purple flowers at this time of year, which is as attractive to me as it is to the bumble bees that frequent our herb bed in droves. The flowers are even more delicious than the green chive itself, with a delicate perfumed garlicky-ness I find quite addictive. If you don’t grow your own and can’t get hold of the flowers by any other means you could of course substitute fresh chopped green chives in this, just use a bit less to avoid them overpowering the other flavours. Half the flavour of the potatoes is in their skins so I leave them on as you want to get maximum flavour from the simple constituents of the filling here, and I like to use Burford Brown eggs for my pasta, as the orange yolks give a great rich colour.
Chive flower tortelloni with new potatoes and raclette cheese
500g ’00′ pasta flour, plus extra for dusting
4 medium eggs + 6 egg yolks
For the filling:
1kg new potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
300g raclette cheese (or any other good melty cheese)
5 tbsp chive flowers (approx 10 heads)
You will also need a pasta machine
Put the flour and eggs in a food processor and pulse until it forms a dough (or mix by hand on a clean worktop, breaking the eggs into a well in the centre of the flour and working in gradually). Knead the dough on a clean worktop for a few minutes until you have a smooth, pliable dough, then divide into eight portions, wrap well in clingfilm and leave to rest for an hour.
Meanwhile make your filling. Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 15 minutes, or until tender. Pick the chive heads apart, checking for any little critters that might be lurking inside, and cut the cheese into 5mm cubes. Once the potatoes are cooked, drain then mash with the butter and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Stir in the cheese and chive flowers (you don’t want the cheese to fully melt), then taste for seasoning and allow to cool completely.
To assemble your filled pasta, clear a large worktop and dust it and your pasta machine lightly with flour. Take an eighth of the pasta dough and run it through your machine, starting at the widest setting and slowly getting thinner and thinner, be sure to run the pasta through each setting at least twice. When the pasta is at the thinnest setting, use a round cutter (or a suitably sized tumbler and a knife) to cut discs 9-10cm in diameter. Arrange small spoonfuls of the filling in the centre of each disc, then brush the edges with a little water. Fold the pasta disc in half to give you a stuffed half-moon shape, then curl the pointed edges around a finger to join together, using a dab of water to make it stick. Alternatively just make simple raviolis, in which case it’s prettiest to use a crimped cutter for the discs. Repeat this process until all the filling is used up, keeping all dough and finished tortellonis/raviolis covered with a teatowel when you’re not working on them. Any leftover scraps of dough should really be discarded as they’ll be quite dry by the end, but if you abhor the waste you could reroll them and make some linguine or tagliatelle.
Unless you’re feeding an army with all of this batch straight away, I would advise freezing them on open trays (you can actually stack them a few layers deep on one tray if you put greaseproof paper between each layer), then once they are frozen solid transferring to a ziplock freezer bag (they will keep for around 3 months, thereafter they start to fall apart and lose the chive flavour). To cook (whether fresh or frozen) simply simmer in a large pan of bubbling but not boiling salted water for 3-5 minutes, until they all float to the surface, then toss in plenty of brown butter and scatter with parmesan. Delicioso!