Vibrant and Delicious Stinging Nettle Pasta

Ever since spring has sprung, I’ve been going a bit forage-wild. I have over fifteen pounds of ostrich fern fiddleheads, in various states of being, from frozen to pickled. And while out collecting my second batch of fiddleheads last week, I also made a point to gather a grocery bag’s worth of stinging nettles.

Stinging nettle, or Urtica dioica, grows across the entire country. It can be found in ditches and ‘waste’ areas, often where raspberries and blackberries are found. It is also found along streams. It should be picked when young, before it starts to flower; avoid picking nettles near roads where pesticides may have been applied.

Stinging nettle is an easily identified plant, perhaps unfortunately by touch more than by sight. If you are looking to pick nettles, bring a pair of gloves, and use the top three to four pairs of leaves on the plants. Choose younger and smaller plants first; these will be less bitter to eat.

Once I had my bag of nettles – and a few skin burns, because I ignored my own advice to bring gloves – I turned them into vibrant green homemade pasta.

Homemade pasta is one of the staples in my kitchen. Pasta of any kind is always welcome chez moi; in fact, I would be willing to wager that I could live on noodles alone for the rest of my life and be moderately happy with the outcome.

On the flip side, I don’t own a pasta machine, so I know very well the strength it takes to roll out pasta dough by hand. It’s no easy chore, and it’s time consuming. As such, I’m always looking for recipes that minimize the effort needed to work the dough, while maintaining a delicious flavor.

This recipe, which I created based off of several in my lovely old book Pasta International, uses cooked nettles that have not been wrung completely of their water. Combining the nettles with a mixture of both all-purpose and semolina flours results in a dough that rolls flat with less effort than most doughs I’ve made before. And the pasta, once cooked, is delicious.

I threw the noodles into some homemade chicken stock and added roast chicken, along with carrots and mushrooms. However, I likely would have preferred to let the noodles stand alone, to showcase their glorious color and lovely fresh taste.

Nettles have a semi-nutty, semi-fishy taste to me, which I find fascinating. If this sounds unappetizing, rest assured that much of the taste disappears when turned into pasta.

Stinging Nettle Pasta {original recipe}

You will need:

1 loosely-packed grocery bag’s worth of stinging nettles
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. semolina flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs

Directions:

Separate all nettle stems from stalks, using only the top three or four pairs of leaves from each stalk. Submerge in cold water, and let sit ten minutes – this will help to remove the sting.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add nettle stems, and cook for ten minutes. Set aside, and let cool. Squeeze out of some of the water, but leave most.

In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook (if you don’t have a stand mixer, get ready for a good ten to fifteen minutes of difficult but achievable mixing and kneading), combine flours, salt and eggs. Mix to combine. Roughly chop cooked nettles, and add to bowl. Mix dough on low speed for up to ten minutes. If dough does not become smooth and remains sticky, add extra semolina flour, 1 tbsp at a time.

Let rest, covered, for ten to thirty minutes.

Cut dough into four (workable) pieces. Set three aside, well-covered. Dust remaining piece in semolina, and begin to roll out. Dough should be fairly smooth, and require little work to roll out other than occasional dustings of flour.

When dough is fairly thin (being without a machine, I don’t fret about dough thickness), cut into desired shapes. The noodles shown here were extra wide, cut roughly to the size of fettuce (larger than tagliatelle).

Transfer noodles to a plate, dusting thoroughly with semolina to keep them from sticking. Repeat with remaining sections of dough.

When finished, drop into a salted pot of boiling water – or as I did here, into a boiling pot of soup – and cook for two to five minutes, depending on how well-cooked you prefer your pasta.

Enjoy!

 

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