As a child, I was fascinated by plants. Back then, of course, the defining feature of nettles is that they sting, so I avoided them as carefully as possible. On the occasion that I stumbled into some, the dock leaves that always seemed to grow nearby provided relief.
I — a 7-year-old impressed by my own profundity upon coming up with a generalization based purely on the case of nettles and dock — commented to my dad, “Isn’t it interesting that the problem and the cure always grow in the same environment?”
Years later, my interest in nettles is more in their culinary value than their imagined universal lessons about problem-solving. But every time I deal with them, I still remember the burning sting on my unwary hands or shins.
A note on neutralizing nettles:
Cooking nettles neutralizes their sting, which is why they’re typically blanched before use. To be extra safe, this recipe involves cooking the nettles three times (blanching, sautéing, and baking on the pizza). By the time they make it to your mouth, you shouldn’t need to worry at all about accidentally stinging your tongue.
Pizza with Sautéed Nettle, Pine Nut, Ricotta Salata, and Agrumato
Blanch the nettles:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with your pizza stone inside.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare a bowl of ice water.
- Plunge the 2 ounces of fresh nettles into the boiling water and boil for 30 to 60 seconds. Remove and place into the ice bath, swirling to cool and clean them.
- Remove the nettles from the ice bath and transfer onto a clean kitchen towel. Press dry. Remove any particularly thick or tough stems.
Sauté the nettles with garlic, and toast the pine nuts:
- Thinly slice the garlic clove. Melt the 1 tablespoon of butter in a pan and add the garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook over medium heat until just fragrant.
- Add the towel-dried blanched nettles to the pan. Sauté until tender, about 3 minutes.
- While the nettles cook, toast the 1 tablespoon of pine nuts in a dry pan over medium heat until they begin to turn golden-brown.
Assemble and bake your pizza:
- Stretch the dough into an approximately 12” round. Brush with extra virgin olive oil. Top with the mozzarella cubes.
- Spread the sautéed nettles over the crust, then sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts.
- Bake the pizza until the crust is golden-brown and the cheese is melted and bubbly, turning once halfway through.
- Shave ricotta salata onto the finished pizza, then drizzle with the agrumato or lemon-infused olive oil.