Bucatini with wild nettles, lemon and parmesan
Take a look at my post on foraging and wild nettles, which describes the process of gathering them, and how to blanch wild nettles to disable their stinging ability. If you'd rather skip the foraging step when searching out stinging nettles, never fear; they are available at many farmers markets and in grocery stores that have specialty produce sections.
This puree is slightly different from the recipe for nettle pesto for pizza in the foraging post. Here, I've skipped the nuts, and added a small amount of heavy cream to the sauce, which helps it cling to the pasta and creates a full and satisfying "mouth feel."
makes 4 servings
1 pound wild nettles, stems attached
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for garnishing finished pasta
2 cloves garlic
Finely chopped zest and juice of one lemon
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 pound buccatini or other favorite pasta shape
Salt and cayenne pepper to taste
Coarsely chopped fresh herbs such as chives, mint, parsley, or a combination, if desired
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil over high heat. Fill a medium size bowl with cold water and a handful of ice cubes. Set aside.
Meanwhile, wearing gloves or some other form of protection for your hands, clean the nettles by separating the leaves from the stems. Discard the stems, or add them to boiling water and steep 5 minutes for a delicious and nutrient-rich tea.
After the water comes to a boil, blanch the nettle leaves for one minute. Remove the pan from the heat, drain and transfer the nettles to the bowl of cold water. Once cool, use your hands to squeeze as much moisture as possible from the nettle leaves. Fill the pot with fresh water and bring it to a boil again.
Meanwhile, add the nettle leaves to the bowl of a food processor with the cheese, garlic, lemon juice and zest, olive oil, a pinch of salt and 1/4 cup water. Puree the ingredients first by pulsing and then letting the machine run until you have a fine textured puree, 1 to 2 minutes.
When the water comes to a boil, add a generous pinch of salt and the pasta, and cook according to the directions on the package. Fresh pasta should be finished in 2 to 3 minutes, while dry pasta will usually take between 7 and 9 minutes.
Set a little bit of the cooking water aside before draining the pasta. Add the pesto back to the same pot with the heavy cream, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the drained pasta and toss it with the pesto, continuing to heat the sauce and reheat the pasta. Add more salt if needed, cayenne pepper if desired, and some of the reserved pasta cooking water if the sauce is too thick.
To serve, divide the pasta between four bowls. Sprinkle some of the reserved extra cheese on top of each bowl, along with fresh herbs if using. Serve immediately.