Nettles are full of healthy nutrients. So this Stinging Nettle Pesto is particularly high in iron, packed with other minerals and vitamins, plus it’s a great detox for the liver.
Nettles are best in the Spring. Ideally, pick nettles that are quite high (you don’t want them “sprayed” by animals) and the younger leaves are best since the older, outer leaves can be quite bitter. Never pick nettles from the side of the road, as they are in danger of being sprayed by herbicides. It’s best to get them far into the forest, as nature intended. Check out my previous post about picking nettles in the forest.
Like classic pesto, this nettle variation is handy to have in the fridge. It can keep for 3-4 days (just keep topping it up with olive oil after use) and it freezes well, too. Pesto is SO quick and easy to make, it’s a crying shame if you buy that mass market stuff sold in jars at the supermarket. Although – this nettle version does take a bit longer but it’s worth it.
Stinging Nettle Pesto
100g stinging nettle leaves, stalks removed
30 pine nuts, (or walnuts) toasted
2 cloves garlic, core removed
40g parmesan, freshly grated (reggiano, although grana padano will do)
1 tsp sea salt
freshly cracked pepper
200ml extra virgin olive oil
1. Keep your gloves on at this point, as the nettles still have their sting!
2. Remove all the leaves from the stalks then soak them in cold water for a few minutes.
3. Still with gloves on, plunge the leaves into salted boiling water for 2 minutes. The salt keeps the green colour bright. Blanching the nettle leaves like this removes their sting.
4. Strain the leaves and cool. You could reserve the cooking water (for stock, soups etc.)
5. Once cool, squeeze out any excess water and place in a food processor or blender with the other ingredients. Add the cheese at the end.
Toss the pesto into cooked pasta. There is no need to heat the sauce. That way you get all the beautiful flavours oodling their way between the noodles…
Garnish the dish with crispy nettle leaves which have been deep fried for 30 seconds in 150°C and left to drain off excess oil on kitchen paper. That way you get Le Crunch and not a sting…
Enjoy with a glass of red Bordeaux, such as a Fronsac, a chilled fruity rosé or a white Vermentino.
Santé! To your good health!