This dish was born from the happy marriage of long-frozen tortellini and pretty far-gone fiddleheads from the discount rack at my local chain grocery store. Though both had been cast out from society and nearly left for dead, these two orphans found that they were made for each other. And then I ate them.
Since I think of fiddleheads as a wild crop (anyone know if they can be cultivated?), I was deeply saddened to see them imprisoned in plastic wrap and being sold for a dollar a package in that sad clearance section in the produce section. Sharing space with bruised and mealy red "delicious" apples from Argentina were these iconic New England heralds of spring. I knew it was my job to rescue them.
They took a little more debearding then usual, but once sorted cleaned, blanched, and shocked, they looked as good as new. The tortellini was a little gummy from its lengthy cryogenic sleep, but being from the excellent pasta makers at Capone, I couldn't bear to let it go.
I tossed the al dente tortellini with the blanched 'heads in olive oil and a little more balsamic vinegar than you'd think, cracked in plenty of pepper and dusted it with parmesan. It was good. The fresh, crispy, gooey fern sprouts paired well with the firm, chewy, salty pasta. I'm surprised I haven't seen the combo before.
What I liked even more than the excellent flavor was the way the fiddleheads wrapped their tentacles around the pasta, as if to say "we're going down together." It was like eating Romeo and Juliet, which is appropriate since tortellini are said to have been inspired by the belly button of an Italian woman.