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nettle gnudi in parmesan brodo with spicy pork meatballs

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The first signs of Spring in my garden on Lummi Island are the Nettles that pop up around the perimeter of the whole property where the forest has been cleared back. Not only does the arrival of Nettles make me breath out a giant sigh of relief that we are coming out of the darkness but I’m excited to get cooking with them.

Get out and start foraging for them in February and March as by April they start to become coarse and you should not eat them once they start to form flowers. Pick off the top 4 to 6 leaves on each spear as they are the most tender. Don’t forget to always wear heavy gloves and long sleeves when handling these horrible stingy things but don’t worry, once cooked, the sting dies off.

Nettles beat both spinach and broccoli in their richness in vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin C and iron. A tea made by steeping the leaves has long been used to help with inflammation and digestion as well as countless other ailments. The flavor is similar to spinach and can be used in its place in most recipes. (Alternatively, you can substitute spinach here if you don’t have access to nettles). My favorite ways to eat them is on pizza, or made into a soup or pesto. Here I’m trying something new and putting them in gnudi paired with bite size spicy pork meatballs all swimming in a nutty parmesan broth. For a veggie option you can replace the meatballs with cannelloni beans. Adding fresh peas would also be delicious.


nettle gnudi in parmesan brodo with spicy pork meatballs

serves 4

  • 6oz parmesan rinds

  • 8 cups water

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 8oz nettle leaves

  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan + more for garnish

  • 3 egg + 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten

  • 2/3 cup bread crumbs

  • 1 cup flour

  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

  • 2 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

  • 1 lb ground pork

  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Put parmesan rinds, water and bay leaf in a pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat  then turn the heat down to low and gently simmer for 2 hours stirring every once in a while to make sure the rinds don’t get stuck to the bottom of the pot. Strain through cheesecloth, season with a little salt and set aside.

Heat oven to 400º.  In a bowl, mix together pork, 1/3 cup bread crumbs, 2 eggs, 1 1/2 teaspoon salt and chile flakes until everything is incorporated. Form 1″ meatballs and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cook for 20 minutes, until nicely golden brown, then set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook nettles for a minute. Drain and put into an ice bath to stop the cooking. Once cool, drain from the ice bath and squeeze the nettles to remove as much water as possible. Transfer them to a food processor and process into a smooth paste, adding 1/4 cup of water or so if needed to get things moving.

In a bowl, mix together the nettle puree, 1 egg, egg yolk, parmesan, 1/3 cup bread crumbs, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt & pepper. Add flour and stir to form a soft dough. Coat a cookie sheet with flour and with two teaspoons, make Quenelles by scooping some of the dough into one spoon and with the second spoon press it into the bowl of the spoon as you scrape it back into the first spoon repeating until you have a three sided football shape. Or, if you want to make life easier for yourself, you can also put the dough into a pastry bag and pipe out pieces onto the flour. Either way, they should be 1.5-2″ long. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and drop in 1/2 of the gnudi.  Cook for about 5 minutes then transfer to a plate and cover with foil while you cook the second half of the gnudi.

To serve, bring the broth to a simmer and add dumplings and meatballs to just heat everything through then ladle into shallow bowls and garnish with a drizzle of nice olive oil and a big grating of parmesan.