Every spring, when I start to see the dandelion greens grow, I make this homemade ravioli.
For me, it is a way to mark the beginning of spring. To kick it off. To celebrate!
And there is nothing quite like fresh, local food…straight from the ground…AND (bonus) completely free!!
Now, dandelion greens may not be the first thing you think about when it comes to your dinner plate but traditionally they were used as a reliable spring food source and tonic. They are known as a “hunger gap” food.
Back when people had to grow all of their own food, they would often run out of food in late winter or early spring. This period of the year was known as the hunger gap (or the hungry gap).
It is believed that Europeans brought dandelions with them to America and planted them because they knew that they would have food to eat in the spring to fill that gap.
Another bonus is that dandelions are often one of the first foods available for bees too.
Nowadays, most people see the round, yellow flowers and have a deep desire to get out a dandelion digger or the herbicides. I’ve known people who have declared war on the dandelion and have zero tolerance for them in their lawn.
Me, on the other hand, I see dandelions in the spring and think…
“Nice! Free food!”
No matter where you are on this spectrum or how you have felt in the past, I invite you to look at the dandelion plant with a new open mind. And see it for what it is.
Because all weeds have a job to do.
In nature, dandelions help fill in blank spaces and prevent soil erosion. Their deep tap roots help to aerate the soil. They are considered a “bitter herb” and have been used medicinally as a spring tonic to cleanse the body. And as we have already discussed, they provide early spring food for both bees and humans.
You may still want to remove them from your lawn, but always remember that the humble dandelion has a deep history of being used for life-sustaining food to heal the body and save people and animals from starvation.
Gotta respect that!
When gathering dandelion greens, I strongly encourage you to know your source. You do NOT want to harvest willy-nilly from the city park because they likely will have been sprayed with herbicides or other chemicals. Or along roadsides where exhaust fumes have settled on the plants. Please be careful and wise when gathering wild food.
When harvesting weeds, you always want to be sure you have identified them correctly as many edible weeds have poisonous look-alikes. I feel very confident with harvesting dandelion greens, though, because there are no poisonous look-alikes for this plant.
If you want to learn more about foraging and wild-harvesting weeds, check out this book on the subject. Or check out this webpage for more foraging book suggestions!
Once you have found a place where you can be sure that there are no chemicals, harvest your dandelion greens in early spring when they begin to grow. They are best when harvested before they flower, but you can harvest them after the flowers bloom as well. They will just be a bit more bitter.
Making the filling
I usually just pull the leaves off the plant by the handful but you could also dig up the entire plant if you want to. Wash the leaves very well. I usually put them into a big bowl of water and swish them around.
Once they are washed, lay them out on a cutting board and chop into small pieces. For this recipe, we will be using 4 cups of greens.
Then add them to a frying pan or saucepan with a cup or so of water in the bottom. Heat to boiling and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the greens are wilted, bright in color and soft. Let cool.
Once cool, strain in a colander. Reserve the cooking liquid for a spring tonic tea if desired (you may need to sweeten it as it will be quite bitter). Squeeze as much liquid out of the greens as you can using the back of a spoon or your hands.
Mix the cooked dandelion greens in a bowl with 16 ounces of ricotta cheese, 2 cloves of garlic (grated or finely chopped), and a teaspoon of salt. This is your ravioli filling.
Making the pasta dough
Make or buy some pasta dough. I used this recipe. If you do not want to make pasta dough, you can simply use wonton wrappers since they are essentially sheets of pasta dough.
If using wonton wrappers, place filling in the center of the wonton wrapper, wet the edges with water, place another wonton wrapper on top and press the edges to seal. I have not tried this recently though so you may need to experiment to get it just right.
If you are making pasta dough, a pasta roller and ravioli maker are both super important for this recipe. You CAN do it all by hand but these tools make the job much simpler. I used this ravioli maker. And this pasta roller (although I do NOT recommend it at all. I have this one because I wanted a pasta roller but didn’t want to spend much money. Cheap pasta rollers are worse than pantyhose in the heat of summer! Don’t do it!!)
I DO however recommend this really cute pasta roller assistant! Two people make the job so much easier and he did an amazing job running the crank for me!!!
The pasta roller that I’ve got my eye on is this one. My sister has this model (made in Italy) and she says it is incredible! I really wish that I would have spent the extra money because a good quality pasta roller is worth every penny!!
Sigh. I will upgrade at some point.
Filling the ravioli
When using the ravioli maker, a key is to flour it generously before you put the dough on. This is what it should look like.
After you flour it, lay a sheet of pasta dough on top. Fill each of the wells with about a Tablespoon of filling. It should look like this.
Lay another sheet of pasta dough on top and roll with a rolling pin in all directions to seal the ravioli and cut the excess dough away.
Tilt the ravioli maker upside-down onto a cookie sheet or plate to remove the ravioli. Repeat until all the filling is used.
Cooking the ravioli
Boil a large pot of water and add a generous amount of salt. Place 12 ravioli in the boiling water at a time and let cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon.
Place in a serving bowl and toss with olive oil to keep them from sticking together. Repeat until all the ravioli are cooked.
Serve immediately with your sauce of choice.
Now that you have read/seen this recipe for dandelion greens ravioli, I hope that you will remember that this weed can be eaten. Maybe, instead of reaching for chemicals, you will have a burning desire to make this delicious ravioli instead.
Maybe, just maybe.
Happy dandelion harvesting!
Dandelion greens & ricotta ravioli
- 4 cups dandelion greens, washed
- 16 ounces ricotta cheese
- 2 cloves fresh garlic, grated or finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 recipe pasta dough
- Pasta sauce of choice
- Parmesan cheese for garnish, if desired
- Finely chop the dandelion greens and place in a frying pan or saucepan with 1 cup water. Bring to boil and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the greens are wilted, bright in color and soft. Let cool.
- Once cool, strain in a colander. Squeeze as much liquid out of the greens as you can using the back of a spoon or your hands.
- Mix the cooked dandelion greens in a bowl with 16 ounces of ricotta cheese, 2 cloves of garlic (grated or finely chopped), and a teaspoon of salt.
- Roll pasta dough in a pasta roller or by hand until it becomes a thin sheet. Flour the ravioli maker mold and then lay a sheet of pasta dough on top. Fill each well with about a Tablespoon of the dandelion greens filling.
- Lay another sheet of pasta dough on top and roll with a rolling pin in all directions to seal the ravioli and cut the excess dough away. Tilt the ravioli maker upside-down onto a cookie sheet or plate to remove the ravioli. Repeat until all the filling is used.
- Boil a large pot of water and add a generous amount of salt. Place 12 ravioli in the boiling water at a time and let cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon.
- Place cooked ravioli in a serving bowl and toss with olive oil to keep them from sticking together. Repeat until all the ravioli are cooked. Serve immediately with your sauce of choice.