When I was little, a friend who had come to our house for dinner told everyone at school the next day that my family was weird because we ate GREEN spaghetti! In a small rural town in an era when foods like avocados and even bagels were considered novelty items, spinach pasta – my mom’s clever way to sneak greens into our meals – definitely earned me a reputation as the kid who ate the wackiest food. Well it turns out old habits die hard and true to my roots, I’m still eating green pasta today.
This recipe is made with nettles but you could substitute spinach if you prefer.
Since our giant nettle patch seems to be on a mission to take over the entire yard, it gets mowed frequently and therefore grows new tender shoots all through the summer. Its persistent presence is both a blessing and a curse, depending on who you ask. I love to cook with nettle because of its outstanding nutritional qualities. Nettles are so full of beneficial nutrients and compounds that they are used medicinally to treat a wide range of ailments. As a culinary green, they’re so densely packed with minerals and vitamins that they surpass most other leafy greens in terms of nutritional content, turning this simple pasta recipe into an unexpected superfood.
Making homemade pasta is surprisingly easy. If you’re like me, you may have put off making it for years because you don’t own a pasta maker. Well guess what? You don’t need one, and as can you see in the video, you don’t even need a rolling pin. An old wine bottle will do the trick just fine! Pasta dough is simple to work with: knead it well, give it a little resting time, pay attention to its needs (if it’s on the dry side, add a little water, if it’s too sticky add a little flour), and you shall be generously rewarded.
If you’re looking for nettles (also known as stinging nettles), you can often find them in the wild, and occasionally at farmer’s markets or health food stores. True to their name, they do sting so it’s best to wear gloves when handling them though I find I can harvest them comfortably with bare hands if I only allow them to come into contact with the pads of my fingertips. Nettles lose their sting within 30 seconds of cooking. As in life, sometimes the people with the prickliest personalities are the most interesting to get to know, once you get past their initial sting and give them a chance. Bon appétit!
PS: If you’re a nettle lover, be sure to also check out my recipe for nettlekopita.
Homemade Nettle Fettuccine Alfredo
You don't need a pasta maker or even a rolling pin for this nettle fettuccine Alfredo recipe. Watch how easy food blogger Aube Giroux's homemade pasta recipe can with our fun video from Kitchen Vignettes.
- About 1/2 pound of stinging nettle (or spinach)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
- 3/4 cup semolina flour
- 1 1/2 cup heavy cream (35%)
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 cup freshly grated parmesan
- Remove the leaves from the nettle plants and discard the stems. Rinse the leaves and place them in a pot of boiling water (or steam them) for 60 seconds. Remove from water and immediately rinse in cold water. (Save the cooking water for the pasta). Squeeze all the water out of the leaves.
- In a food processor, purée the nettles, olive oil, and 1 egg until smooth. You should end up with about 3/4 cup of nettle purée. Don't worry if it's a little more or less than this amount.
- Mix the semolina and flour together and shape into a mound on a clean countertop. Make a well in the center.
- Crack the second egg into the well, then add the nettle purée. With a fork, gradually mix the egg and nettles into the flour from the inside out, pushing in the outer edges with your hand as you mix, if need be.
- As soon as the dough is not too sticky to handle, begin to knead it with your hands until the flour is integrated into the dough and you can gather it into a ball.
- Knead it for an additional 10 minutes. If the dough is too sticky, add a little flour. If it's too dry, add a little water. It should be a firm dough, not sticky, but not dry or cracking at the edges.
- After kneading, cover the dough with a damp towel and let it rest for about 30 minutes.
- After the resting period, cut the ball into 4 pieces. If using a pasta machine, follow the manufacturer's instructions. If using a rolling pin, roll the dough as thinly as you can without it breaking up. Sprinkle a little flour so it doesn't stick.
- Once you have a nice thin sheet of pasta, sprinkle a little more flour on top. You can either cut it flat with a knife if you are good at cutting in straight lines. Or you can roll up your pasta sheet like a cigar and then cut across into 1/4 inch thick noodles.
- Unravel your pasta strands and sprinkle a little flour on them so they don't stick together. Repeat with remaining 3 balls of dough until all the dough has been rolled out and cut into fettuccine.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (you can use the same water that cooked the nettles). Meanwhile, pour the cream into a large skillet or wok and begin to heat gently on medium-low heat. Cook the pasta in the boiling water only until al dente, about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Remove it from the water and transfer it directly into your simmering cream.
- Add half of the parmesan and stir gently. Simmer until the sauce has thickened to your liking, usually about 3 minutes. Be careful not to overcook or your pasta will get mushy.
- Remove from heat. Season with salt, pepper, and freshly ground nutmeg.
- Serve hot and garnish with the remaining parmesan.
Yield: Serves 3 to 4 people
Aube Giroux is a food writer and filmmaker who shares her love of cooking on her farm-to-table blog, Kitchen Vignettes.
Aube is a passionate organic gardener and home cook who likes to share the stories of how food gets to our dinner plates. Her work has been shown on television and at international film festivals. In 2012, she was the recipient of Saveur Magazine’s Best Food Blog award in the video category.