To blanch the nettles, bring a large pot of water to a boil. In another pot, or large bowl, prepare an ice bath. Add a generous amount of salt to the boiling water and cook the nettles for 1-2 minutes. Remove and shock in the ice bath. Squeeze as much water as possible from the nettles with your hands, then wrap the nettles in a tea towel or cloth, and twist both ends like a candy wrapper, to expel the remaining water. You now have recipe-ready nettles; the prepared nettles can also be frozen and stored for later use.
Nettle Tagliatelle with Pork and Pangrattato Serves 4-6
1 stale loaf of country bread, crusts removed, cut into rough cubes
1 head of garlic, thinly sliced
¼ cup oiive oil handful of fresh parsley and mint
zest of 1 lemon
hot red pepper flakes to taste
salt and pepper to taste
4 ounces of guanciale, pancetta, or bacon, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus good extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling salt and pepper to taste
To make homemade tagliatelle, please follow the recipe below.
Heat the oven to 300F, before heating the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Toss in bread cubes and lightly toast — about 5 minutes. Transfer the cubes to a sheet pan and bake for 15 minutes. Add the garlic to the cubes and continue to bake, until the bread is dry, about 30-40 minutes. Put the bread in a food processor; add the parsley, mint, lemon zest, red pepper flakes and pulse into a mixture of coarse and fine breadcrumbs. Season the pangrattato with salt and pepper.
Bring a large pot of water with a generous handful of salt — it should taste fairly salty, like seawater — to a boil.
Heat a large pan on medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and cook the cured pork for a minute or so, until crisp. Remove from heat. Cook the pasta in the salted water for 2-3 minutes, or until al dente.
Drain the pasta, add it to the pan and toss with the pork. Divide the tagliatelle between plates or bowls. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle generously with the pangrattato.
Wild Green Phyllo Pie Makes one 12-inch pie
1½ cups blanched nettle, finely chopped
½ cup blanched sorrel, finely chopped
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 teaspoon. fresh oregano, finely chopped
2/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
salt and pepper to taste
11 sheets store-bought phyllo pastry (approx. 285 grams)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil for brushing
Preheat the oven to 350F. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan and sweat the onions over medium heat until soft and translucent. Remove from heat. Add nettles, sorrel, thyme and oregano and toss to combine. Stir in the beaten eggs. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Brush a 12-inch pizza or pie pan with olive oil. Lay a sheet of phyllo pastry on top of the pan, allowing the pastry to drape over the edges the pan, and brush with oil. Place another sheet of phyllo on top, rotating slightly (about 30 degrees) and brush with oil. Repeat process six more times, rotating each successive sheet slightly, until the base consists of eight layered sheets. Spread the prepared filling on top of the base and spread it evenly to the edges of the pan. Sprinkle the feta over the filling. Gather the loose outer-edges of the pastry, and fold over the top of the filling. Form the top of the pie by laying a sheet of phyllo down on a clean surface, and brush with oil. Lay another sheet down on top, rotating it 45 degrees from the previous one and brush with oil. Repeat a final time, with the last sheet. Then carefully gather the top and drape overtop of the pie, creating peaks and valleys with the pastry, like a wrinkled bed sheet. Brush with oil. Bake in oven for 35 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool slightly; cut into wedges. Serve warm, or at room temperature.
Nettle Cannelloni with Morels and Spring Herbs Serves 6
2 pounds ricotta
1 cup finely chopped cooked nettles
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
handful of finely chopped spring herbs (e.g. chives, chervil, parsley, tarragon, thyme)
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup light vegetable stock (or chicken stock)
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound fresh morels, clean (using a brush or a damp paper towel)
½ cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoon white miso
chervil for garnish
In a bowl, combine all the ingredients for the filling and season with salt and pepper to taste. Reserve and refrigerate.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and prepare an cold water/ice bath in a separate bowl. Cook the cannelloni sheets for 1-2 minutes or until they are al dente. Remove the sheets and shock in the ice bath, remove immediately and pat dry with a tea towel.
Transfer the filling to a pastry bag fitted with a round tip — a large zip-top freezer bag with a cut in the bottom corner makes a great ersatz bag. Squeezing from the top of the bag, pipe logs of filling ¾ to 1 inch in diameter across the base of each pasta square; roll to form the cannelloni. Put the cannelloni in a roasting pan or baking dish, moisten with the stock and olive oil, cover with foil and place in a 375F oven for 10-12 minutes.
Put a large saucepan on medium heat. Add the morels to the dry pan, and allow them to release some of their liquid. Remove the mushrooms, reserve the liquid and return them to the pan with a few tablespoons of butter. Cook until slightly browned, one minute or so. Add the remaining butter to another saucepan on medium — medium-high heat. Allow the butter to foam while monitoring it closely. When small brown specks start to appear and the butter smells nutty, remove it from the heat. Whisk in the miso and the reserved morel liquid.
Serve three cannelloni per warmed plate. Divide the morels between the portions, spoon the brown butter sauce over and garnish with a few small sprigs of chervil.
2 cups type 00 flour (a fine bread or pizza flour)
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup blanched nettles (replace with 6 egg yolks to make cannelloni)
To make tagliatelle, purée nettles in a food processor, adding one of the eggs, if needed, and blend until smooth. Place the flour in a mound on a clean work surface, make a well in the centre and add the egg(s) and salt. Next, add the nettle purée to the well. Using a fork, stir together the egg and nettle mixture, slowly incorporating flour from the outside edges of the well. Once incorporating more flour becomes too difficult to do with a fork, use your hands to gather the rest of the flour and begin to knead the dough. Knead the dough until you have a smooth uniform ball of dough — about 8-10 minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for an hour.
To make cannelloni, follow the instructions above, using the 6 egg yolks in place of the nettle purée.
After the dough has been refrigerated, divide it in three pieces. Take one portion of dough (wrap the other two so they don’t dry out) and start rolling out the pasta.
Pasta maker: Run the dough through the thickest setting several times, folding the dough in half, or in three (like a letter) each time, until the dough develops a sheen. If ever the dough starts to stick, dust with flour and carry on. Run the dough through a few more times without folding it, then begin decreasing the setting on the machine, running the dough through each setting twice, until you reach the secondlowest setting. Cover the sheet to prevent drying and roll the remaining portions of dough using the same method. Cut each sheet in half and dust with flour. Run the sheets through the tagliatelle or fettuccine cutters, dusting the cut noodles with flour and forming them into loose nests or cut into 4-inch cannelloni squares.
By hand: Roll out each portion of dough into a large sheet with a rolling pin and dust heavily with flour. If needed, an additional egg yolk may be added to improve pliability. To make cannelloni, trim the dough sheet into 4-inch squares. To make tagliatelle, fold the dough sheet over on itself like an accordion, or roll it like a pinwheel. Cut into ½-inch noodles with a sharp knife.