Stinging nettles are quickly rendered harmless by a few seconds in boiling water. They are delicious and full of essential nutrients, a perfect tonic for spring.

UPDATE: This weekend–January 28 & 29, 2012–there were freshly harvested stinging nettles at both the Santa Rosa and Sebastopol farmers markets. During a conversation with a customer at the Sebastopol market, I promised to make this entry, from last spring, easier to find and so here it is.

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Today’s Seasonal Pantry features stinging nettles, a nutritious and delicious spring green that is easier to cook with than you might think. You can read today’s column here.

If you’re in need of a spring tonic–aren’t we all?–you can make a simple one by simmering a couple of handsful (careful! use gloves or tongs) of nettles in about 3 cups of water for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, cover and steep for 10 minutes. Strain and enjoy hot or chilled. I sometimes add a stalk of fresh lemongrass (crush the bulb first), as I like the flavor with the nettles. This is said to be an extremely potent potion that reduces allergy symptoms and perks up your immune system in many good ways.

As promised in today’s column, here are links to more recipes from the Seasonal Pantry archives.

Spring Greens Soup with Yogurt

Stinging Nettle Soup with Seared Scallops Variation: Instead of scallops, top nettle soup with a poached egg and toasted breadcrumbs.

The first time I ate nettles was at a gorgeous Relais & Chateaux hotel in a remote area of Vancouver Island. After traveling by train from Victoria, we enjoyed a wonderful lunch that featured brilliant green pasta made with pureed nettles. It was a revelation and soon after I returned home, I found nettles at the farmers market and make some for myself. It is time-consuming but no more so than making any type of fresh pasta.

Stinging Nettle Pasta with Butter & Dry Jack Cheese

Serves 3 to 4

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup (loosely packed) stinging nettles
  • 2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 extra large eggs, at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons butter, in small pieces at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
  • Dry Jack cheese, in one piece
  1. Fill a small saucepan half full with water, add a tablespoon of kosher salt and bring to a boil. Plunge the nettles into the water and simmer for 2 minutes. Pour through a strainer and let cool slightly. Press out as much water as you can squeeze from the nettles. Using a very sharp knife, chop the nettles as finely as possible; if you have a small food processor, you can puree them instead.
  2. To make the dough, put the flour into a large bowl, add 3/4 teaspoon salt and mix with a fork. Bake a well in the center of the flour and break in the eggs. Add the pureed nettles and, using a fork, begin to blend the ingredients, gradually drawing in the flour and enlarging the well until all of the ingredients are incorporated.
  3. Dusk a work surface with flour and turn the dough out onto the flour.  using a dough scraper and the palm and heal of your hand, knead the dough, pushing it down and away from you and turning it repeatedly, until it feels smooth and satiny, about 7 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle a little more flour on the dough whenever it begins to feel sticky. Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces and let rest 10 minutes.
  4. To roll the dough, use your hand to flatten a piece into a rectangle. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough away from you, applying moderate pressure. Turn the dough over and around. Repeat, adding flour if the dough becomes sticky, until the pasta reaches the desired thickness, about 1/32 to 1/16-inch for noodles.
  5. Drape the rolled dough over a rack or chair back and let dry while you roll the remaining pieces. To cut, begin with the first piece and roll it up into a loose tube. Cut into 1 1/4-inch wide noodles. Put the cut noodles into a large bowl, sprinkle with flour, toss gently and set aside for 15 minutes.
  6. Fill a large pot three-quarters full with water, add 2 tablespoons kosher salt and bring to a boil over high heat.
  7. Warm a wide shallow serving bowl. Add the pasta, stir gently, and cook until tender, about 2 to 3 minutes. Drain thoroughly, shaking off excess water.
  8. Put the pasta in the serving bowl, add the butter and toss gently until the butter is melted.  Scatter the Italian parsley on top, grate some of the cheese over the pasta and serve immediately, passing the rest of the cheese and a grater alongside.