Nettle Pesto Pasta with Goat Cheese…and Wild Garlic Biscuits!

In one of my past lives, I was a wise old Italian lady who grew herbs and had a lot of rosemary around her house and a mysterious garden and lots of olive trees and everything. I think that’s where my extreme love of pesto, olives, lemons, and rosemary comes from. So…here is another post about pesto (remember the Garlic Mustard Pesto post from liiiike a year ago? No? That’s ok. Here it is).

One of the best things about pesto is you can make it out of almost any fresh, tasty green plant. So, when I saw the first tiiiny little nettle babies coming up last week, I thought OMG, I SHALL PUT YOU IN A PESTO! A wonderful pesto full of nourishing vitamins, minerals, and protein.

Pro-tip: nettles like to have wet feet. Look for them around lakes and marshy areas.

– Me

Stinging Nettle (Urtica Dioica)

The initial plan was to make the pesto on Easter Sunday and serve it on crackers or crostini as an appetizer. But like many of the plans I make, this did not actually happen. We were cooking so many other things that day that the nettles fell by the wayside and were forgotten…

Until a few days later when I was trying to come up with something for dinner. It was one of those lazy days where I didn’t feel like cooking anything elaborate, so I was like, What is the least amount of effort I can put in here? I decided to make the pesto and just toss it with some pasta. I also threw in some goat cheese I happened to have on hand.

Now, feeling a little more motivated, I decided some biscuits would be really great on the side. I have a ton of wild garlic growing in my front yard, so I decided to go trim some of the green tops and throw them into the mix. They have a taste very similar to chives, so they were a perfect addition to the biscuits!

Wild garlic (Allium vineale), is super tasty. They can be used in place of chives or green onions.

In the end it was a really delicious meal that took minimal effort – perfect for those spring nights when you want to spend more time outside and less time in the kitchen!

Nettle Pesto:

Ingredients:

2 cups roughly chopped nettle

2 cloves of garlic

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup of shredded parmesan cheese

1/2 cup toasted walnuts (or pine nuts)

Salt and pepper to taste.

To make the pesto:

First, blanch the nettles. Add them to boiling water and cook for about a minute and a half, then scoop them out into a bowl of cold water. Drain.

This is not a normal pesto-making step, but nettles contain a lot of formic acid than can get you if you touch one of the prickly hairs on the leaf or stem. Usually, the acid dies away after they’ve been picked, but if you keep them super fresh in the refrigerator, they might still have a little sting. A quick hot water bath takes care of that.

Next, add the nettles to a food processor with the toasted walnuts, garlic, and grated cheese. Pulse to combine. Add the cheese and pulse again.

With the food processor running on low, slowly drizzle in the oil until everything is combined.

Ta-da! Pesto done.

Now just cook the pasta according to instructions and toss with the pesto and about 4 oz of soft goat cheese. Simple and sooo tasty!

Wild Garlic Biscuits:

Ingredients: 

2 cups whole wheat flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1/4 cup chopped wild garlic greens

6 tbsp butter*

3/4 cup buttermilk**

To Make the biscuits:

Heat over to 425. Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Cut the butter into small cubes and work it into the flour mixture, using your hands or a pastry cutter, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the wild garlic greens.

Next, make a well in the center of the mixture and add the buttermilk. Mix everything together until you have a sticky dough, then drop by large spoonfuls onto a foil lined baking sheet and drizzle with a little melted butter. Bake in oven for about ten minutes, or until tops are golden. Serve warm with butter.

*A butter substitute like earth balance works in place of real butter.

**To make a dairy free buttermilk, simply combine plain almond or soy milk with lemon juice (1 tbsp juice to 1 cup milk) and let sit for ten minutes before using.

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