(Bet you never thought you'd see a recipe for nettles!)
I really thought I was done with recipes from my travels, but then the universe decided it had other ideas.
I went to our town farmers' market this weekend. It's been a hard year for farmers all over—too hot or too dry or too wet. So there were only three stalls selling vegetables this time around—and one of them had stinging nettles. I may have mentioned that at the banquet in a castle last month (was it really a month ago now?) we had ravioli with ricotta-nettle filling, and I figured that was my once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to try nettles. And then there they were at the market, just waiting for me. Of course I bought them.
There aren't a lot of recipes out there for stinging nettles. None in my cookbook collection. None on Epicurious. So I did a Google search—and came up with three. One was for soup, one for ravioli (much like those I had already eaten), and one was for a sort of pesto-ish sauce for pasta. I picked Door Number Three—largely because for some unexplained reason I actually had all the other ingredients called for, including sorrel, which has gone to seed and taken over my garden. The stars aligned: this was meant to be.
One important note: Do not handle stinging nettles barehanded, because they (duh) sting. Use gloves, or just dump them into boiling water without touching the leaves. Once they've cooked for a couple of minutes, they're safe to handle (get rid of the water, though). Oh, and safe to eat. No burning sensations, no tummy rumbles or heartburn. Really. They don't even taste strong.
Pasta with Stinging Nettle Sauce
1/4 pound fresh stinging nettles
(I used less because that's all I had)
8 ounces pasta
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 pound fresh ricotta cheese
1 lemon for zest and juice
1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 small handful of fresh sorrel leaves, washed and
torn into bite sized pieces
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. "Carefully" add the nettles (no bare hands!) and give them a stir. Cook for 5 minutes and transfer them to a colander with a slotted spoon. Let the nettles drain. Dump the water out.
Boil another pot of salted water, add your pasta, and cook until al dente.
While the pasta is cooking, press most of the water out of the nettles with the back of a spoon, transfer them to a food processor and puree. Drizzle in the olive oil and process until completely smooth. Add the ricotta, lemon zest and juice and herbs. Pulse the processor to blend all the ingredients. Add the chopped walnuts last and pulse a couple of times.
Taste, then season with salt and pepper.
Remove a cup of the water the pasta is cooking in and reserve. Drain the pasta and then return it to the pot. Toss in the nettle-ricotta cheese mixture and stir to combine. Add the fresh sorrel and a little of the reserved pasta water to create the desired consistency of the sauce.
Enjoy! (Don't worry--it won't bite!)