top of page

Nettle Pasta

I was trying to be sanguine about stockpiling, but the empty shelves in the pasta aisle filled me with initial concern.

In my early twenties I spent two years working at least sixty five hours a week in an italian restaurant. Survival in this high stress environment involved three things:

Speaking a coarse and rudimentary level of the italian language. (The head chef once told me I spoke the lingua of the working classes. Peppered with expletives, regional dialect and a few random polish words thrown in for good measure).

Drinking at least eight coffee’s a day (cappuccino before eleven, espresso’s till midnight)

And eating pasta at least once a day.

It’s amazing what caffeine and carbs will get you through

We had a shelf in our walk in fridge devoted to scraps and leftovers. Courgette, onion and pepper trimmings, chicken thighs, the ends of the salamis and ham’s and even fish heads. If you put something edible in the bin you’d be in big trouble with a scary Italian chef.

Every morning the pasta chef would raid this shelf and the turn scraps that other kitchen’s would have simply binned, into lunch for thirty hungry (and extremely picky) chefs and waiters. We would check the rota’s first thing in the morning in the hope the chef came from a region south of Rome. These guy’s knew how to make polenta scraps, ham ends and overripe tomatoes into steaming pots of “Pasta Fantasia.”

Twenty years on and my Italian is still pretty shocking. Anyone who knows me will tell you Coffee is my constant companion. And I still love a bowl of pasta fantasia.

Here’s a way of making your own with limited ingredients:

1 5p carrier bag Stinging nettles

750g 00 or strong bread flour

25g olive, rapeseed or vegetable oil

10g Table salt

First forage some nettles. My friend Eddie showed me a way of plucking the leaves straight from the stork with your bare hands. His seven year old grandson mastered it quickly and could impress his friends by picking and eating them raw. I, on the other hand, just got stung.

I recommend you pop on a pair of vinyl, rubber or stout gardening gloves, roll down your sleeves and even put a pair of elastic bands around your wrists to seal your sleeves over the gloves.

A 5p carrier bag full should make you a nice big batch.

Next fill a clean kitchen sink with cold water and pick the leaves from the storks (still wearing your gloves) straight into the cold water. It’s important to wash them as dog walkers are still out during social distancing.

Leave the leaves to soak in the sink for around a minute to let any mud sink to the bottom. Then without draining the sink lift the leaves out the water into a colander to drain. Drain the sink, give it a good clean and refill it with cold water and some ice if you have it.

Now fill your biggest saucepan with water and bring it to a rolling boil. Add the nettle’s in batches so as the boil is not lost and almost immediately remove them with a sieve, strainer or slotted spoon then plunge them into the cold water in the sink.

Drain the cooked leaves well (you can handle them with your bare hands now) and try and squeeze excess water from them. You can use your hands or ball them up in a clean tea towel and wring them out like that. Don’t worry if they aren’t bone dry, a little moisture will help them blend.

Put the blanched leaves into a jug blender if you have them or if you have a stick blender use a measuring jug and put the blender into it. Add around 25ml of oil (rapeseed or olive if you have it if not just some vegetable oil will do) and just enough water to blend it to a very smooth puree.

Now clear a space on your kitchen side and pour 750g of 00 flour or strong bread flour into a pile then make a well in the middle and add the puree as well as 10g of table salt. Using your hand in a circular motion stir the puree so as to gradually incorporate the flour until you have a stiff dough, If the mix feels gloopy work a little more flour into it or if it’s too soft add some cold water.

Once you have a stiff dough, knead it for around a minute till it starts to look smooth.

Now wrap it in clingfilm and let it rest for between an hour and a day in the fridge. After an hour it will be ready to roll but after a day it will start to lose it’s vibrant colour.

While it rests I recommend you watch some real experts on rolling pasta. Not Jamie, Gennaro or Georgio but the Pasta grannies.

These ladies all over eighty have more skill in their hands than I will ever have. And it’s a great mental health moment to watch a bit of slow telly.

You can either eat the pasta straight away or make a long pasta and hang it in a line to dry. Then pop it in an airtight container and it will keep for easily a month.

Now all you have to worry about is running out of coffee

33 views0 comments


bottom of page