Nettles are now available at many farmers’ markets come spring, so you can prepare this dish, which hails from the Italian countryside, in your own kitchen. Be sure to handle the nettles with gloves until you give them a quick dip in boiling water, which takes away their sting.
Orecchiette with Butter-Braised Nettles
- 12 oz. (375 g) stinging nettles
- Fine sea salt
- 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
- 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 small fresh hot chile, minced, or a generous pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 lb. (500 g) dried orecchiette or other short, sturdy pasta
- 3/4 cup (3 oz./90 g) grated pecorino romano cheese
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Wearing gloves to prevent stinging, cut the tough stems off the nettles and rinse well. Using the gloves or tongs, place in the boiling water and blanch until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and let cool, then chop coarsely. Fill the pot with fresh water, salt generously and bring to a boil.
2. While the water is heating, in a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter with the olive oil. Add the garlic and chile and stir to coat with the fat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the garlic is fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the nettles and 1 tsp. salt. Using tongs, toss the greens to coat well. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until the greens are tender, about 10 minutes.
3. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes or according to the package directions. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) of the cooking water. Transfer the pasta to the pan with the greens and toss well to combine. Add a splash or two of the pasta-cooking water to loosen the sauce, if needed. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the pasta and toss again. Divide among 4 shallow bowls, garnish each serving with some of the remaining cheese and serve immediately. Serves 4.
Find more recipes like this one in our enticing collection of authentic dishes made modern, Rustic Italian, by Domenica Marchetti.