Recipe for stinging nettle soup or Zuppa di Ortiche

We’re huge fans of Smith Street Books, publishers of stunningly beautiful recipe books and coffee table books, and so we were thrilled when the chaps there sent us a copy of Adriatico, a gorgeous book of recipes and stories from Italy’s Adriatic coast by blogger and photographer Paola Bacchia. Here’s her take on what to do with stinging nettles, extracted from the book. We’re heading down to our local common with gloves this weekend for sure…

Foraging for foods, particularly wild greens, is very common all over the Italian peninsula. In spring, nettles are abundant and particularly tasty, and are a traditional herbal remedy for many ailments. They are also called “vendetta delle suocere” (mother-in-law’s revenge) referring to what might happen if lovers were to lie down in a field full of nettles…

While it may sound unlikely, this vibrant green soup is real lovely, rich in both colour and flavour. If you have trouble with finding stinging nettles, it helps to ask around. I put out a call on social media when I was writing this book and at least three friends living in the country offered to give me bags of them as they were growing wild on their properties and they didn’t know what to do with them. My cousin Emma collected a big bunch of these fragrant green leaves from a field next to her winery in the Yarna Valley and tied them up with a big string bow. I wasn’t home when she tried to deliver them so she left them hanging off my door handle with a card saying “I don’t think these are nettles but I thought I would drop them over for you to check.” They were indeed nettles and when I called her to thank her she said she wasn’t surprised as her hands had itched for at least half an hour after picking them! So remember to use gloves when handling the fresh leaves; cooking removes the stinging effect so you can touch them freely.

Give this soup a try – I know you’ll love it. You’ll wish you had an Emma nearby to bring you a bunch of nettles too.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
100g stinging nettles, well washed
1 litre vegetable stock
400g potatoes, peeled and chopped
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
grated parmesan, to serve
crusty bread or croutons, to serve

 

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over low heat, add the onion and cook for about 10 minutes until soft and translucent. Drop the nettles into the pan and cook for a few minutes. Add the vegetable stock and potato and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the potato is tender.

Using a stick blender, whizz the soup until it is fairly homogenous, although I like to leave a few chunks of potato for texture. Reheat gently, and season to taste with nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with parmesan and serve with crusty bread or croutons.

From Adriatico by Paola Bacchia (Smith Street Books, £25) is out today.