We are coming up on the end of nettle season, and if you haven’t’ found a way to work these delicious (and nutritious) herbs into your spring menu, here is your chance. To be honest, the first time we tried a recipe with nettles, we didn’t really like it. We gave them another chance and now we are big fans.
In addition to bringing intensely green flavors into a dish, nettles are also amazingly nutritious. They have a long history of medicinal use and are packed with vitamins. You should be warned in advance that nettles sting. The stems are covered in little barbs that, when you touch them, actually sting and it actually hurts. The barb wilts at around 100 degrees, at which point it loses its potential to sting you. The best solution is to handle them with tongs or gloves. We always keep a big box of these blue plastic gloves in our kitchen drawer for tasks like this.
We’ve seen nettle risotto on a few restaurant menus around town and decided to give it a try at home. It’s very simple to make and is a really healthy vegetarian dinner option. For our vegan readers, simply omit the whipped burrata and substitute olive oil for butter. Another great nettle recipe to try is from one of our favorite restaurant in town, SPQR. There’s a great recipe in SPQR Modern Italian Food and Wine called Bucatini with Nettles, Pancetta, and Black Pepper. We think everyone should own this book.
For the whipped burrata, you will need one ball of burrata and an iSi canister and cartridge. Break open the ball of burrata in a small bowl and mix it to a smooth consistency. It should be very thick but you may need to add a few drops of milk or cream. Add the burrata to the iSi canister and insert the cartridge. Shake a few times to whip, and make sure to completely invert the canister and shake all of the burrata down toward the nozzle when dispensing.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. At the same time, bring the vegetable stock to a simmer in a separate saucepan. Blanch the nettles in the boiling water for about 30 seconds, just until they soften, then drain and puree in a food processor or blender. Set aside.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a saute pan or risotto pan. Add the onion, and cook until it is soft and translucent. Add the rice and stir until the rice makes a clicking sound as it hits the side of the pan, then add the wine and let it mostly evaporate.
- Begin adding hot stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring constantly, each time waiting for the last addition to evaporate before adding the next ladle.
- When the rice is nearly finished, add the nettle purée and continue cooking. Add stock as necessary until the rice is perfectly cooked. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Plate the risotto and top with whipped burrata and freshly grated grana padano.