Spaghetti With Nettles

I shop for organic produce at the Ferry Plaza Famers Market in San Francisco every Saturday morning and buy stinging nettles when they’re available. I caution anyone handling them that they need to either use tongs or wear rubber gloves because the green in its raw state irritates the skin. I like to eat stinging nettles with pasta.

The ingredients needed for the two-serving recipe that follows are: about ½ pound fresh stinging nettles, 6 ounces dry spaghetti, ½ cup raw or toasted pecans, ½ cup crumbled feta cheese, 6 olives, 2 cloves garlic or one stalk green garlic when in season, 1 ounce canned anchovies, olive oil, a large cooking pot, a colander, kitchen shears, a serving bowl or platter, a garlic press, and a kitchen timer.

This dish doesn’t take long to prepare and is best served immediately. I start by putting everything I need on the kitchen counter. I fill the pot with cold water and light the burner to heat it. I weigh the spaghetti so it’s ready. I put the colander in the sink and begin dumping the stinging nettles into it in batches and using the shears to cut it into smaller pieces so it doesn’t form clumps when it’s cooked.

Whenever the water reaches the boiling point, I slide in the spaghetti, setting the timer for ten minutes from the water resumes boiling. I make sure to stir the spaghetti once softens to separate the strands. It takes more than ten minutes for it to become al dente but the timer gives me a bit of advance warning to keep an eye on it while I complete the preparations below.

I break the pecans into pieces in the serving bowl, add the crumbled feta, remove any pits from the olives and cut into small pieces before also adding them. I clean the garlic and push through a garlic press or slice the green garlic and add to the other ingredients. I chop up the anchovies as fine as I can and add them along with the olive oil they’re packed in plus a bit more olive oil.

Just before the spaghetti is done I turn off the burner, add the stinging nettles to the pot and press down any that aren’t submerged. They take about a minute to cook. I return the colander to the sink where I drain both the pasta and greens. Once all the water is removed, I add the cooked spaghetti and nettles to the bowl and mix well before serving.

image & text copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

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