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Stinging Nettle (Lasagna)

The scientific name for stinging nettle is Urtica dioica. The plant, also know as "itch weed" prefers damp soil and grows around the cow lot, ditches and pretty much anywhere on the farm. Mostly, I notice it after I've walked through it, as my ankles tingle and begin to burn which requires running for soap and water to wash the itching away. There are sharp hairs on the leaf that irritate your skin. It also contains a chemical that you may already be familiar with — serotonin. I have yet to experience a sense of sleepy calmness where nettle is concerned.

I stumbled upon its culinary uses as I watched an episode where Jamie Oliver went out to his English garden and harvested the stuff for an omelet. I learned that day that one can substitute it for spinach in cooked dishes. (imagine the mouth feel if it was raw). The comparison is interesting. I actually prefer the texture of nettle to spinach in a dip, egg dish, or lasagna. WARNING: NOT FOR SALAD! My favorite is using nettle in lasagna. Here is my high protein Nettle Lasagna Recipe.

Protein on Protein Nettle (not noodle)Lasagna

Prep all your layers first, having picked and washed the nettle leaves using rubber gloves. Other layers include 1lb each of beef and Italian sausage browned. To the meat layer I add my sauce (whatever I have handy but please don't use sauce with hidden sugars!) I like to put in a whole chopped onion to let it soften with the browning meats. For the third layer, I use a tub of ricotta cheese, to which I add 2 or 3 duck eggs (chicken work fine), salt and pepper and some freshly chopped garlic and Italian seasoning or fresh basil. Next layer will be sliced or shredded mozzarella. Now, the layer of noodle-like protein is actually a pkg of cream cheese, 3 duck eggs (chicken are fine) and a 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese blended smoothly, baked on oiled parchment on a sheet pan until its set (375 deg. for about 10 min). Cut that into wide strips to lay flat as if it were a noodle).

The layering is the fun part...

Meaty sauce of the bottom

Noodle-eggy-cheesy strips

Nettle (put loads on as it cooks down like spinach)

Meaty sauce

Mozzarella

Repeat, finishing with sauce and cheese

I baked mine for about one hour at 350, or you could do it low and slow if you want more evaporation.

I have very successfully substituted thin slabs of zuccini, instead of the egg/parm/cream cheese to make this lighter and still give great Italian flavor. Then just sprinkle the parm on top. Note: when using zuccini strips, the baking time should be lower and slower to make sure the zuccini is done, and some of the water evaporates. The results are best when you let it sit an cool for a bit. This recipe and many adaptations of it have been served here on the farm to our guests. Everyone loves it and request the recipe. Picky eaters don't need to know what's in it to love it!




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