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Nettle Pasta with a Sweet Potato and Mushroom Sauce

Nettles grow all year but it's only in Spring and Autumn that their leaves are small and tender. Nettle grows around road sides, waste areas, walk ways and river. I'm sure if you looked you would find some. When cutting them wear thick rubber gloves and cut off the tender tips and small leaves. Nettles when simmered in water at around 50°C lose their toxic sting and becomes similar to spinach, and can be prepared in many dishes instead of spinach. The sauce below is excellent with the pasta but it also goes well with tomato and seafood sauces or just toss it with a little olive oil or butter and mixed herbs.

Wine Recommendation: Why not try a good but un-oaked Chardonnay from the South of France with this dish- Chardonnay de Pennautier See The Mixed Case for details

Wine Recommendation: Why not try a good but un-oaked Chardonnay from the South of France with this dish- Chardonnay de Pennautier or from Jouclary. See The Mixed Case for details

Portions: 6 Portions

Preparation: 30 minutes

Cooking: 20 minutes

Ingredients

Pasta

  • 500g strong flour (00)
  • 2 eggs (free range or organic)
  • 3 egg yolks (free range organic)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp Pesto sauce (optional)
  • 100g nettle tips and leaves

Sauce

  • 250g sweet potato (preferably white), peeled and diced into 1cm cubes
  • 15g dried wild mushrooms, reconstituted in boiling water for 15 minutes and water reserved
  • 150g button mushroom, finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp sage leaves, shredded
  • pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp basil leaves, shredded
  • 100g creme fraiche

To Serve

  • 40g pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 tbsp parmesan shavings

Method

  1. Nettles: Wash the nettle well and place it in saucepan with just enough boiling water to cover it. Allow the nettles to cook in simmering water for a couple of minutes until the leaves are wilted and tender like spinach. Remove the nettles from the water and refresh them in cold water. Puree them in a food processor with the olive oil and Pesto until you have a smooth puree. Remove the puree from the food processor and set aside.
  2. Pasta by Food Processor: Place all the ingredients including the pureed nettle in a food processor and process it until you have a breadcrumb like consistency. Tip the mixture out onto a work surface and bring it together with your hands so that you have a ball of dough. If it is to dry add a little water and if it is to wet add some more flour. Knead the mixture for a couple of minutes until it has some elasticity. Make the dough into 4 balls and cover them with cling film and place them in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  3. By Hand: Place the flour out onto a work top and make a well in the centre. In a bowl beat the egg, oil and nettle (finely chop the nettle to a puree) together, pour this mixture into the well in the centre of the flour. Using your your hands bring the flour into the egg mixture and gradually combine it until you have a dough. Knead the dough for couple of minutes until it is firm and has elasticity. Make the dough into 4 balls, cover them with cling film and place them in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Fettucinie: Remove the dough from the refrigerator and starting with one ball of dough roll it out so that it is around 1cm-1.5 cm thick. Set a pasta machine to the lowest setting and pass the pasta through it 3 times. Then set the pasta machine to a higher setting and pass it through, then reduce the setting and repeat the process to the last or second last setting so that the pasta is very thin and long. If the pasta comes sticky, dust it with a little flour. Cut the sheet of pasta in half and pass each sheet through the fettucinie setting on your pasta machine. Hang the pasta up on a wooden pasta holder or weighted broom handle. Repeat this process with the remaining pasta.
  5. Storage: Cook the pasta soon after preparing it or leave it to dry or 3-5 hours and then store it in a sealed storage container in a cool place for up to 3 months.
  6. To Cook: (Cook it when you are finishing the sauce) Bring a large pot of boiling water to the boil and place the pasta in it and cook for around 2 minutes until al dente.
  7. Sauce: Place the reserved mushroom water in a saucepan over a moderate-high heat and bring it to the boil. Place the sweet potatoes in the stock and leave them to simmer for 5-7 minutes until they are tender. Strain the sweet potato from the stock and set aside while you finish the sauce. Return the stock to the saucepan and allow it to reduce on a strong simmer until their is only a little liquid left (around 80-100ml).
  8. Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large saucepan over a moderate heat. When melted add the garlic, sage leaves, chilli (optional), wild mushrooms and button mushrooms and cook them for 5-8 minutes, stirring regularly until tender. Stir in the spring onions, basil, sweet potato and creme fraiche into the mushroom mixture until well combined.
  9. Remove the sauce from the heat and toss the pasta in it until the sauce is well distributed throughout the pasta. Serve.
  10. To Serve: Distribute the pasta among 4-6 bowls and scatter over the pine nuts and parmesan. Serve.

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