Cooking with nettles is nothing new. Once people can get over the idea that the weedy plant that punctuated their childhoods with periods of uncomfortable dermatitis is actually a foodstuff, then nettles turn out to be a tasty and versatile plant.
To cook nettles, step 1 is to wash the dog piss off them. Then you need to blanch them to de-activate the toxins that sting you. At this point, you have a food product that cannot hurt you, but a bin full of trimmings that are positively dangerous. You need to be foraging spring nettles, not summer ones, as the plant becomes fibrous as it ages.
The dish given here is by Tim Siadatan of Trullo, and he suggests that the nettle-flavoured pasta is topped off with another item were told to avoid as kids – a raw egg yolk.
Instructions for basic pasta can be found here.
Tagliarini di ortica con uovo
- For the pasta:
- 160g nettles leaves, picked and washed
- 2 eggs
- 225g pasta flour
- For the sauce:
- 125g nettles
- 60g butter, cubed
- 90g parmesan, grated
- 1 tsp finely grated nutmeg
- Salt and black pepper
- 4 egg yolks, to serve (optional)
Blanch all the nettles for the pasta and the sauce in salted boiling water for 25 minutes. Strain, refresh in iced water and squeeze the liquid out. Roughly chop half of the cooked nettles for the sauce.
To make the pasta, blitz the nettles and egg in a blender and then pass through a sieve, discarding any fibrous buts that will not go through. Combine the mixture with the flour o make pasta in te usual way (see our basic pasta recipe). The presence of the nettles can alter the usual flour-to-egg ratio, so combine slowly and only add as much flour as you really need. Wrap in clingfilm and leave to rest for at least 1 hour in the fridge.
Roll the pasta in a machine until reasonably thin. cut using a tagliarini or linguine cutter (or cut into stripes half as wide as tagliatelle).
Set a large pot of salted water (mild seawater taste) on to boil. Meanwhile, in a saucepan over a medium heat, warm the nettles with a splash of water.
Drop the tagliarini into boiling water, and cook for 90 seconds. Drain the pasta, but reserve the water. Add the tagliarini to the nettles with a dash of pasta water and butter and stir for around 30 seconds. Then, take off the heat, add parmesan, nutmeg, and a good amount of pepper and salt to taste. Stir to emulsify the parmesan – you will probably need to add a little more pasta water – then top with an egg yolk, if using.