Though their flavor is often compared to spinach, nettles have a thickness and texture that makes them a better candidate for use in the kind of coarse pesto that clings to pasta. Spread any leftover pesto on sandwiches, swirl it into aïoli as a dip for artichoke leaves, or thin it with additional olive oil and use it as a pizza sauce.–Jess Thomson
LC Got Nettles? Note
Got nettles? If it’s not spring, then chances are you don’t. And if it is spring, then watch out, cuz they’re not known as “stinging nettles” for nothing. The prickly leaves are quite protective of their high mineral content, protecting it with barbed edges and an irritating chemical. The author notes to simply dump the bag of nettles into the pot of boiling water. That’s presuming you’re buying the nettles come spring from a farmers’ market. It’s the safe approach. We encourage it. Strongly.
Bucatini with Nettle-Pecan Pesto Recipe
- Quick Glance
- 25 M
- 45 M
- Serves 2 to 4
- For the pesto
- 1/2 pound nettles
- 3 large garlic cloves, smashed
- 1/2 cup toasted pecans
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- For the pasta
- 1/2 pound bucatini or thick spaghetti
- 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
- 1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a simmer for the nettles. Add the nettles directly from their bag and cook, stirring continuously, for 2 minutes. Dump into a colander to drain. When the nettles are cool enough to handle, wrap them in a clean dishtowel and wring out as much moisture as possible. You’ll have about 1 cup of cooked, squished nettles.
- 2. Pulse the garlic, pecans, salt, and a few grindings of pepper in a food processor until finely chopped. Add the nettles, breaking them up as you go, and the lemon juice and whirl until the nettles are finely chopped. With the machine running, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream through the feed tube. Add the cheese, pulse a few times, and season to taste with additional salt, pepper, and lemon juice, if needed.
- 3. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Meanwhile, heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the breadcrumbs and toast for a minute or two, stirring frequently, until the crumbs are golden brown. Transfer to a small bowl.
- 4. When the pasta is done, reserve a cupful of the cooking water and then drain the pasta. Return the pasta to the pot and mix with a heaping 1/2 cup nettle pesto and about 1/4 cup (more or less) pasta water. Stir in the breadcrumbs and the 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Serve immediately, sprinkled with additional Parmesan.
- Instead of toasted pecans, try toasted walnuts.
- For a spicy pesto, saute 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, until fragrant. Cool, then add to the pesto with the rest of the oil.
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:
- Nettle Gnudi with Crisped Sous Vide Duck and Rhubarb Reduction from Salty Seattle
- Pasta with Stinging Nettles and Ramps Pesto from Sassy Radish
- Pickled Ramps from Leite's Culinaria
- Dandelion Greens and Garlic Cooked in Duck Fat from Leite's Culinaria
Bucatini with Nettle-Pecan Pesto Recipe © Jess Thomson. Photo © Jess Thomson. All rights reserved.