Stinging Nettle Recipe For the Brave of Mouth

October 4, 2007 10 Comments

Stinging Nettle Recipe For the Brave of Mouth

Stinging Nettle Recipe

Another event brought me back to Harriton House last weekend. This time it was the Harriton Plantation Fair and featured horseback rides, sheep herding, Pennsylvania Dutch barbecue, music, log cutting and the infamous Stinging Nettle Eating Contest.

Rose Bochansky, the assistant to Curator Bruce Gill, thought up this event and was one of the 5 contestants. Being a vegetarian, I think Rose thought she was a lock to win, but Rose had no idea that my friend Barbecue Bob, that meat-eating gourmand was going to show her how to wolf down a pile of stinging nettles and win the first place prize, a case of beer. (Photo is of Rose and Bob extracting honey from honey bee combs back at the end of July.)

Stinging nettle (or should I say Urtica dioica) is an herbaceous flowering plant that can be found in Europe, Asia, Africa and Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. It is covered with tiny little hairs that act as needles that release a toxin when penetrating the skin. The toxin is harmless but burns at first and causes a nasty itch afterwards.

Why Eat Stinging Nettles

Not that I’m recommending you eat them raw, but stinging nettle has been used by many cultures as an herbal medicine. Because they are rich in calcium and iron, nettle is often used to make soups. (See Edible Wild Food) Supposedly, when you cook the leaves, the stinging hairs are disabled.

Some people dry the leaves, crush them and use them for making tea. I have also heard young plants with new leaves are more tasty than older plants. The leaves I tried after the contest tasted like raw string beans. And yes they did sting my hand but not my mouth.

Stinging Nettle Recipe For the Brave of Mouth

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 2-4 servings

Stinging Nettle Recipe For the Brave of Mouth


¼ pound fresh stinging nettles

8 ounces of pasta

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ pound fresh ricotta cheese

1 lemon - for zest and juice

1 tablespoon fresh mint - chopped

1 tablespoon fresh parley - chopped

1 tablespoon fresh chives - chopped

Salt and pepper - to taste

1 small handful of fresh sorrel leaves - washed and torn into bite sized pieces

½ cup toasted walnuts

How To Prepare At Home

Bring two large pots of salted water to a boil. One will be for the pasta and the other for the nettles.

When the water comes to a boil in one of the pots, "carefully" add the nettles and give them a stir. Cook for 5 minutes and transfer them to a colander with a slotted spoon. You want to leave any dirt or grit in the cooking water. Let the nettle drain.

Add the pasta to the other pot of clean water and cook until al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, press most of the water out of the nettles, transfer them to a food processor and puree. Drizzle in the olive oil and process until completely smooth. Add the ricotta, lemon zest and juice and herbs. Pulse the processor to blend all the ingredients.

Season with salt and pepper.

Remove a cup of the water the pasta is cooking in and reserve. Drain the pasta and then return it to the pot. Toss in the nettle ricotta cheese mixture and stir to combine. Add the fresh sorrel and a little of the reserved pasta water to create the desired consistency of the sauce.

Stir in the walnuts and serve.

Last modified on Sat 28 July 2018 1:05 pm

Filed in: Pasta Recipes

Comments (10)

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  1. Mel says:

    I was given a cookbook by my Russian mother-in-law that contains recipes for soup, dumplings, and blintzes made of stinging nettles. I’ve been told it’s good, but never tried it personally.

  2. Jacqueline says:

    I just turned your recipe into a raw recipe by drying the nettle and soaking it in a little water to make in the sauce. I spirilized some zucchini and marinated it for 10 hours in some Braggs liquid aminos and filtered water. I made the sauce and tossed it with the zucchini, yummy

  3. Katrina says:

    I’ve been taking nettle tea regularly during my current pregnancy for iron deficiency. Stinging nettles are very high in iron and recommended for women especially with low iron and to avoid or reverse anemia during pregnancy and menstruation. They are also very high in other vitamins, minerals, and vegetable proteins.

    Nettles of the genus Urtica should only be used. What is commonly called “Bull Nettle” is a member of the family Euphorbiaceae, has large leaves, very long white hairs, large white flowers and nut-like seed pods, and a milky white sap. This should not be used for food purposes except the seed kernels. Always be sure of proper identification when harvesting wild plants.

    I have heard nettles should be used before they begin to flower, and here where I am in central Texas, the nettles that have grown in a sheltered shaded area seem to have much larger leaves and take longer to go to flower than those growing in sun. The leaves get smaller and more stemmy as the flowers set in. They can be harvested easily with leather gloves, the spines can poke through cloth and thin rubber gloves, but I use a pair of Nyprene dishwashing gloves to wash them in the sink, sort, de-stem, and dehydrate them.

    The flavor of the tea can be a bit strong and “woodsy” but I happen to like it. Keep batches in a dark container or use it quickly, as it turns much darker green and develops a stronger flavor with exposure to light and over the course of a few hours…the chlorophyll I guess.

    Hi Katrina, thanks for sharing this information with us. – RG

  4. gaynor reynolds says:

    read your essay with interest. Remember nettles from childhood (wales uk) lots of white itchy bumps lol
    where do you find them ?
    they usually grow wild with a plant called burdock (not sure if that is what it is called here ) the remedy for white itchy bumps was to rub the leaves of burdock on them to take the sting out i would like to see them again
    thanks gaynor reynolds nether providence pa

    Hi Gaynor, the nettles from this post were found on Harriton Farms in Bryn Mawr, PA. Thanks for the suggestions. – RG

  5. Gopal Bhusal says:

    Hello, I’m Gopal from Nepal. We have a company to produce the powder of stinging Nettle. I got pleasure reading your articles and methods of cooking. Let’s us know if we can help you from Nepal. We are using 100% natural product so it’s organic . Sadhana Nepal Industry – Butwal,Nepal

    Hi Gopal, thank you for this information – RG

  6. Andrew Grygus says:

    Some growers here in Southern California are now selling nettles and local farmer’s markets, but the only use they seem to know is for herb teas. In Ireland and Northern and Eastern Europe they are used for soup. I’ve put two very nice soup recipes on my (currently non-commercial) food web site at (Irish) and (Swedish)

    Hi Andrew, thanks for sharing these recipes with me. I’m sure they taste better in your soup than eating them raw. – RG

  7. pat says:

    i am making a bazzi ie fried garlic and onions,1 teaspoon of haldi powder then mix in the boiled chopped nettles add salt to taste a chilli or two eat with rice very nice.

    Thanks Pat. Wasn’t sure what you were saying but I looked up haldi and found out it is another name for turmeric. Are you saying bazzi is fried garlic and onions? – RG

  8. Phil Ambler says:

    The dried,seived nettle leaf is so versatile in giving ‘body’ to gravies,soups,sauces,that we wouldn’t be without it.
    This and kelp powder..

  9. Kahi Dickinson says:

    Hi I have enjoyed nettle drink in the past for years. Now I am too lazy to go harvest in the paddock 11kilometers away. Pick tops of fresh young plants rise with water and put into a stainless steel pot or ceramic container pour boiling water over it to one thumb past the leaves. When cool put in fridge and wait 24 hrs. Whether or not it the water turns to a beautiful blue green color it is a wonderful refreshing drink and you can eat the leaves afterwards.

    PS I am seriously thinking of getting it again as my sciatica is back again.

  10. anotherKatrina says:

    Last week I found some stinging nettles in my back yard in southern California. A lovely, bright green plant I’d never seen before suddenly started growing in an unplanted pot full of rich compost and soil. I stopped to admire the pretty leaves, crushing one to see what it smelled like; of course, it gave me sharp stings and a not too terrible rash for a day.
    My next door neighbors, who are originally from France, positively identified them as well as my comparing them to your photo. The mom says it is all over the place where their family lives in France and it is easy to brush your legs against it. The daughter says the soup is YUMMY. She also offered that the stinging toxin can be neutralized with vinegar if your skin is irritated.
    The son is going to take a specimen for his high school plant collection; maybe it will be the crown jewel of the class.
    Thank you for the recipe. I don’t know if we will have enough of the plant to cook with it; but it’s growing quite fast!

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