‘Going out in early spring to pick young, tender nettle leaves is something anyone can do, as long as they’re decked out in a pair of thick gloves. An incredibly nutritious and delicious crop of greens is yours for the taking, to make into soup, a pasta sauce, a ravioli filling, a quiche filling or a tart. The possibilities are endless, but, as with all cooking based around foraged goods, whatever you create is ridiculously satisfying. This risotto is particularly easy to make, and turns something earthy and free into an elegant and exquisite dinner party or supper dish’

Thomasina Miers

Nettle risotto

Extract from Giorgio Locatelli’s Made in Italy: Food and Stories Published in 2008 by Fourth Estate

This is a spring risotto-for when the nettles are growing everywhere, it’s food for free. Just remember to handle the nettles with gloves, especially when touching the stalks, which are the part with the sting. In the restaurant, we garnish the risotto with deep-fried nettle leaves.

Ingredients

2 handfuls of young nettle leaves
2.5 litres of good vegetable stock
50g butter
1 onion, very finely chopped
400g vialone nano rice
125ml dry white wine
Salt and pepper

For the mantecatura

About 75g cold butter, cut into small dice
About 100g of finely grated Parmesan

Method

Blanche the nettles in boiling salted water for 30 seconds, drain and put into a food pro-cessor. Pulse to a purée, adding a little water if necessary. Bring the pot of stock to the boil close to where you are going to make the risotto, then turn the heat down to a bare simmer.

Melt the butter in a heavy-based pan, and add the chopped onion. Cook gently until softened, but not coloured (for about 5 minutes). Add the rice and stir it around to coat it in the butter and ‘toast’ the grains. Make sure all the grains are warm, then add the wine. Let the wine evaporate completely until the onion and rice are dry.

Start to add the stock, a ladleful or two at a time, stirring and scraping the rice in the pan as you do so. When each addition has almost evaporated, add the next ladleful.

Carry on cooking for about 15-17 minutes, adding the stock continuously in this way. After about 10 minutes, add the nettle purée and bring the risotto back up to temperature. Carry on cooking for another 5-6 minutes until the rice grains are soft, but still al dente, adding more stock as necessary. The risotto shouldn’t be too soupy when you add the butter and Parmesan at the end, or it will become sloppy.

Turn down the heat to allow the risotto to rest for a minute, then, for the mantecatura, using a wooden spoon vigorously beat in the cold diced butter and finally the Parmesan, making sure you shake the pan energetically at the same time. Season to taste and serve.