One of my favorite parts about getting New York Magazine every week is the “In Season” feature. In this one page feature, the magazine has a New York city chef pick an ingredient that’s currently available at the greenmarket and share a recipe using said ingredient.
Most of the ingredients are basic seasonal staples—overwintered spinach, broccoli raab, asparagus—but every so often they throw something a little more exotic into the mix. Last week: stinging nettles.
I try a lot of the recipes featured, but whenever I can get my hands on something out of the ordinary, I go for it. Just $1.75 later, I had a huge bunch of stinging nettles.
Now, as you might remember from childhood (and as I do very well from gorilla trekking in Africa a couple of years ago), stinging nettles aren’t pleasant. The leaves are covered with hundreds of minuscule spines that cause a rash and irritation. Surprisingly this goes away once they’re cooked, but I still donned my rubber gloves as I tore the leaves.
Even after blanching in salted water, the nettles were delicious. They were soft, like cooked spinach, but had an earthy quality that I can’t really compare to anything else. I likely could have eaten them all on their own, but alas, the accompaniment of fresh fettuccine from Murray’s and bright mascarpone and lemon pushed the dish over the edge.
Fettuccine With Nettles and Lemon
Adapted from New York Magazine
6 oz. stinging-nettle leaves
1 lb. fettuccine
2 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tsp. black pepper
Pinch of chile flakes
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 1/2 tbsp. mascarpone
2 tbsp. Parmigiano-Reggiano
1. While wearing gloves, pick off the nettle leaves and discard tough stems. In a pot, blanch the nettles in boiling salted water and drain.
2. Roughly chop the nettles and reserve. In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente. While the pasta is cooking, heat two tablespoons of the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add garlic, black pepper, and chile flakes, and cook until the garlic is golden brown. Add the chopped nettles to the pan and toss with the garlic until the nettles are warm. Add half of the lemon juice, and remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the mascarpone and half of the lemon zest with the nettles mixture. Finish cooking the pasta, reserving a little of the cooking water, and drain.
3. Return the sauté pan to the burner over medium heat. Add the pasta and toss with the reserved pasta water and the nettles mixture. Adjust seasoning with the remaining lemon juice and zest, and more black pepper. Finish with the Parmigiano-Reggiano and olive oil.
Despite the delicious plate of pasta, our meal wasn’t yet complete. I sautéed up some beautiful overwintered broccoli rabe (note the gorgeous yellow blossoms), also from the market, and we sat back and enjoyed both our meal and the Kentucky Derby, juleps in hand.
P.S. If you want something a bit more “tame” (or simply don’t care for eating poisonous plants—completely understandable), the asparagus soup from this week’s In Season feature sounds excellent.