Stinging Nettle Pesto

Italians make nettle pesto, or pesto d’urtica, in springtime.


2 teaspoons salt
3 cups young stinging nettles tops, packed tightly
3 medium garlic cloves
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 – 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated


In a stockpot, heat 3-4 quarts water and bring to a boil. Add salt to boiling water. Using tongs or gloves, add nettles to salted boiling water. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, drain immediately and then place the greens in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Cool, strain and squeeze dry using a tea towel to remove every drop of moisture that you can.

Coarsely chop the nettles to make about 1 cup. Add them to the bowl of a food processor with the garlic cloves and pine nuts. While pulsing, slowly add the olive oil, 1 tablespoon at a time. Season to taste with salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese. Taste. If flavors need brightening, add a small pat of soft butter and a squeeze of lemon juice. Blend once more to incorporate the final additions.

YIELD: 1 1/4 cups

SOURCE: Adapted from recipe by Ellen Jackson, Edible Portland 

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