Prized by foragers, seasonally minded cooks, and, according to some people, anyone who suffers from anemia, baldness, or gout, the wild stinging nettle has a whiff of danger about it. Upon contact, tiny hairs release chemicals that cause skin irritation, which is why you need gloves to handle them. But cooking renders the tender leaves harmless, and, as demonstrated in the following recipe from Sara Jenkins, quite delicious. --Robin Raisfeld & Rob Patronite
1 pound bucatini or any pasta (Jenkins recommends the Setaro or Latini brands)
1 pound nettles (available at Paffenroth Gardens at the Union Square Greenmarket
Half cup heavy cream
Whole nutmeg for grating
Half cup grated Parmigiano- Reggiano
Salt and pepper
(1) While wearing gloves, pick nettles off stems and blanch in boiling salted water for about a minute. Drain and roughly chop. While the pasta is cooking, heat cream in a large sauté pan. (2) When it starts to simmer, add nettles. Let cream and any nettle liquid reduce by half. (3) Toss hot cooked bucatini with the sauce and add a grating of fresh nutmeg, grated cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.