Nettle Soup

Zuppa di Ortiche

In the Molise, where I found this recipe, they consider young nettle stalks to have a flavour superior to that of asparagus! This is a delicate soup, made in the springtime when nettle stalks are at their most tender. (Be sure to wear gloves all the time you are handling the raw nettles!) A similar soup is made in Campobasso in the winter months, using tender cardoons as an alternative.

Ingredients

  • lb (750 g) stinging nettles (stalks only)
  • 2 oz (50 g) pancetta or unsmoked streaky bacon
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and finely sliced
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 oz (225 g) fresh ripe or canned tomatoes, peeled, de-seeded and chopped
  • salt
  • pints (1.2 litres) water

Method

Put on a pair of thick gloves, remove all the leaves from the nettles and throw the leaves away. Remove the strings from the nettle stalks as you would with celery or string beans. Chop the stalks finely and weigh them again to be sure you have the correct amount - you should have about lb (750 g). Wash and dry them.

Fry the pancetta or bacon and the onion in the oil until the onion is soft and the pancetta or bacon nicely browned.

Add the tomatoes and stir. Simmer for about 10 minutes, then add the chopped nettle stalks and enough boiling water to cover them. Simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes, adding boiling water every now and again and stirring frequently to blend the ingredients thoroughly. You can purée the finished soup in a liquidiser or food processor if you wish. If you do, heat it through again before serving. Transfer to a warmed soup tureen and serve.

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