Growing up I spent a lot of my summer's at my Grandparents cabins on Leech Lake. It was there that I fell in love with the outdoors. Fishing, swimming, waterskiing, and running around in the woods. During the summer months up at the cabin we would always pick buckets full of raspberries and blackberries and would eat fresh fish that I would catch right out of the lake. It really was one of the best times of my life and now that I am 40 years old I would give almost anything to go back to those days. I only have fond memories of those times at the cabin and playing with the neighbors. But if I had to pick one thing I didn't like, it would be al the damned nettles.
There were stinging nettles everywhere up there. In the woods, down by lake pretty much everywhere I was playing there were nettles. And I got into them all the time. My legs would burn like I'd set myself on fire. If you would have asked a ten year old version of me if he wanted to eat some nettles he probably would have run away from you screaming. Little did I know that when picked young and cooked right they are an amazing addition to a meal.
I first heard of people eating stinging nettles when I started watching the River Cottage series with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstahl. I couldn't believe they were eating nettles, It seemed impossible that something that tormented my childhood could be edible. The first time I tried nettles I made a nettle soup with smoked fish. It was decent but it wasn't enough to send me out picking nettles and making more soup. After that I made a ramp and nettle Chimichurri and that was the turning point for me. I really started to enjoy nettles. After that I made a nettle beer and I think that would have been a lot more enjoyable if I had known anything about how to bottle homemade beer. I ended up with a lot of yeast in the bottles and that wasn't much fun, but it tasted pretty good after you poured it through a filter. Ever since then I have been aboard the nettle train and every spring I can't wait to get out and find those young tender nettle tops and try something new with them.
This year I bought a new book about making pasta called, Pasta by hand by Jenn Louis. It is an amazing book and ever since reading it I have become obsessed with making my own pasta. One of the recipes in the book is for a nettle gnocchi and coincidentally right after I bought it he first nettles of the year were starting to come up. I took my son out to the woods and we pick a bag full of nettles and then cam home and made a batch of the gnocchi. I know the picture above is a little out of focus but I was trying to snap a photo while I was making the pasta. Charlie took each dumpling I cut and rolled on a gnocchi board, he was very proud of all his work but wasn't thrilled enough to eat them. He wanted PBJ instead. My wife and daughter on the other hand loved them and between the three of us we ate the entire batch.
I followed the recipe in the book exactly and I was amazed at how great these gnocchi were. After cooking them I just tossed them in butter and shaved some parmesan on them and they were perfect. Here is the recipe from the book the only addition I made was adding some grated nutmeg. I am putting all the measurements in grams so you can be as precise as possible.
Stinging Nettle Gnocchi
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1/2 cup of water
140 grams of nettles, stems removed
2 eggs plus one additional yolk
300 grams of potatoes boiled, peeled and riced
180 grams of all purpose flour, plus more for dusting the board
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1. wilt the nettle with the 2 tablespoons of nettles and the 1/2 cup of water over medium heat for 5-6 minutes. then let stand in a collander to drain until cooled.
2. Place the nettles and the eggs and additional yolk in a blender or food processor and blend until you have a green paste.
3. when the potatoes are cooled add them to the green paste and add the flour, nutmeg and salt. Mix together with your hands until all the flour is incorporated. Add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough holds together but is not sticky.
4. Dust your work surface with four and then cut a small handful of dough off and roll it out into a log about a half inch in diameter. Then cut the gnocchi into bite sized pieces and set aside on a well floured baking sheet.
5. Bring a pot of water to a boil and salt the water liberally. Working in batches cook the gnocchi for 3-4 minute. You will know when they are done when they are all floating on top of the water.
6. Remove the gnocchi from the water and drain, then melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan and toss the gnocchi in the butter. I like to cook them just a little long in the butter so some of the gnocchi develop a nice brown crust on one side. Serve with grated paregganio-reggiano and enjoy.