One summer when we were kids, my sister leaped from the back patio of our cousins’ home and into a large patch of stinging nettles. I remember everyone shouting when she was already midair, “Stephy, no!” but it was too late. The memory has always served as a great reminder for me to wear gloves when handling nettles. Once blanched, nettles lose their sting and take on a mild flavor, rather like a robust, faintly nutty spinach. And they grow everywhere—they’re essentially a weed, making it easy to prepare this pesto with only some nuts and olive oil from the cupboard and a mess of nettles plucked from the backyard or a nearby park. To make this pasta gluten-free, try brown rice spaghetti noodles, which are my favorite.
Nettle Pesto Pasta Recipe with Blistered Snap Peas
• 12 ounces spaghetti
• 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
• 12 ounces sugar snap peas, ends and strings removed
• 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
• 5 cups firmly packed fresh nettles, rinsed
• 1⁄3 cup chopped raw almonds
• 1⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil
• 1⁄4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1⁄4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions, being sure to keep pasta al dente. Reserve 1⁄2 cup pasta water and drain pasta.
2. To make pesto, bring a smaller pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch nettles for about 30 seconds. Remove and submerge in an ice water bath for about 1 minute. Drain thoroughly and lightly squeeze out excess water.
3. Combine nettles, almonds, olive oil, Parmesan, garlic and salt in a food processor. Pulse until smooth. If pesto is thick, add some reserved pasta water. Set aside.
4. Heat a large skillet over a medium-high heat. Add olive oil. Add peas and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes without disturbing, until shells have turned bright green and are blackened in spots. Flip pods and cook another 2 to 3 minutes.
5. Carefully toss pasta with nettle pesto and snap peas. Top with crumbled feta. Serve hot.
Find more color-filled seasonal recipes in Make Colorful, Healthy Spring Recipes.
Reprinted with permission from Vibrant Food by Kimberley Hasselbrink.