Stinging Nettle Pesto

Ah, the wonders of the spring time farmers markets: you never know what you'll find! And by that I mean you will find things you actually don't recognize. You've probably heard of kohlrabi, but have you actually seen it? It looks like a turnip on acid. Same goes for fiddleheads. Both look like something that hopped out of a Dali painting. Last spring, I got a bag of Stinging Nettles because I liked the name. I was warned that I should wear gloves to avoid getting stung, but I'm a man and I don't need gloves to handle some little mint-looking herb.

My hand went into the bag, expletives were shouted, then I smartened up and the gloves went on. What genius decided to put the plant that stings your hands into your mouth? Yeah, this'll be real tasty!

I'd long been holding onto a stinging nettle pesto from world famous chef and baker, Josh Galliano, so stinging nettle pesto is what I made. The flavor of the nettles is similar to spinach—it's a little bitter, a little peppery—but distinctly different. A lot of other websites mention it tasting like cucumber, but I didn't get that. I've thought abut this a lot, and I just don't know how to describe it. Used as a pesto, you get a completely different flavor from your typical all-basil variety - it's a little more earthy, and a bit more peppery. Adding some red pepper flakes takes it to the next level. It's much more assertive than any other pesto I've had.

I used it as a sauce for gnocchi, but it would be great for dips, bruschetta, pizza—whatever you normally use your pesto on. Just don't forget to wear gloves.


Stinging nettle pesto

Stinging Nettle Pesto





1/3 c toasted pistachios
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 c basil leaves
2 c stinging nettles, blanched and squeezed dry
1 1/4 c olive oil
6-8 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 c grated pecorino (optional)
pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)


To blanch the nettles, bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Prepare an ice bath. While wearing gloves, cook the leaves for 10 seconds, remove, then shock in the ice bath.

You don’t have to wear your gloves once they’re blanched. Strain the leaves then squeeze dry. 

Place all of the ingredients (except the olive oil) in a food processor.

Pulverize the ingredients, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil.