Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Stinging Nettle Sauce for Pasta

One of the most memorable pasta dishes I ever ate was a gnocchi with a creamy green sauce, at La Stalla Ristorante in Sorento, Italy. I was having trouble trying to find out what the sauce was made from and went so far as to draw pictures of plants for the waiter, in hopes of identifying the vegetable. Some years later I thought perhaps it was nettles. I still don't know, but would like to work with nettles again, since there is a source for them at Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market, 2 sources to be exact. Too bad this recipe isn't exact. It needed some tweaking, so I've changed the proportions of ingredients to what I think they should be, not what they actually were. There certainly were not enough nettles, so I quadrupled them, and added much more cheese. I also increased the amount of bechamel sauce to accommodate the extra cheese. On my next try using these proportions I'll be able to correct the recipe to my definitive version. Using an immersion blender on the sauce would be a good idea.

1/4 cube butter
2T unbleached white flour
1 1/3C milk
1C freshly grated Parmigiano cheese
4 oz. blanched stinging nettles
salt to taste
Blanche the nettles by pouring the contents of the bag into boiling water and stirring until the nettles are limp. You might also place them in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Both methods will serve to take the sting out of the nettles. Drain the nettles and cover in cold water and drain again. Mince the nettles and set aside. Over a medium flame, mix the flour and butter and make a very light roux, then add the milk and stir until the sauce is very smooth. Allow to cook a bit to thicken the sauce.
Add the blanched, minced nettles into the bechamel and stir them to blend. Take the sauce off the heat and add the grated cheese. After the cheese has been stirred into the sauce and melted, place your pasta into the pan and start mixing it together with the sauce. Plate and add more cheese if desired.

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