Pumpkin Pasta with Nettle Pesto

Updated: Feb 26, 2021

As mentioned in Day 40 of The Challenge

I love making my own pasta. My pasta maker is one of my favourite kitchen toys. I started making fresh pasta a few years ago with my dad, for lasagne or carbonara or ravioli. I got my pasta maker as a house warming gift and love pulling it out. For a long time I stuck with traditional fresh pasta, made with flour and eggs, then last year I started replacing the eggs with different vegetables. It gives the pasta a cool colour, and impregnates it with flavour without losing any of the richness. It works with pumpkin, carrot, beet, sweet potato, each with its own profile and different sauces or dishes to match them to. Some work better than others for the texture, so sometimes, the addition of one egg is necessary. Seeing as it's pumpkin season, I decided to use some roasted pumpkin for the pasta.

I only started using nettles this year. I've heard for years about how good it is nutritionally, and it grows all over around here. I've been curious, but only got around to it this summer. I made the pesto earlier this summer and froze the extra, so for yesterday's dinner we made the pasta and simply heated up the pesto, sautéing it with onions before mixing it with the fresh pasta. Skip the parmesan to make this recipe vegan.


Ingredients:

Pumpkin pasta:

1 1/2 - 2 c roasted pumpkin, mashed

3-4c flour

1 1/2 tsp sage

Salt and pepper to taste


Nettle pesto:

4-5 c nettle leaves, de-stalked and washed ( I recommend gardening gloves!)

1 head of garlic, peeled and crushed

1 tsp olive oil

1/2 cup walnuts

1/2 c olive oil

1/2 c parmesan

(for this one I added 1/2 c roasted beetroot, but it is just as good without).


1 tbsp olive oil

2 onions, chopped

Parmesan for grating


1) Put flour in a bowl and create a well in the centre. Put the pumpkin in the well and gradually mix the flour into the pumpkin to create a soft, elastic dough. Knead in crushed sage and salt and pepper to taste.


2)Dump it out onto a clean, floured surface and knead for a few minutes. Make sure it isn't too sticky as otherwise it will gum up the pasta maker, or it will get sticky when cooked. If it seems to sticky, knead extra flour into it. (If you don't like all the kneading make sure the dough is floured on the outside and pass it through the first setting of the pasta maker a few times. It will work the dough for you.)




3) Once the dough is ready, cut off a piece the size of half a fist and pass it through successively higher settings on the pasta maker. Different machines have different settings, but just to give you an idea, I stopped at setting 5 for this one - thick enough to have some bite, thin enough to be delicate and not clumpy.


4) Once you have it to the desired thickness, pass your sheet of dough through the fettuccine cutter and the hang to dry on a pasta tree, rack or the back of a chair. Just make sure the surface is clean and that the pasta won't stick.


At this point you have the option to dry the pasta completely and store it, or to cook it right away and have fresh pasta.


5) To cook the fresh pasta, bring a pot of water to the boil. Put pasta into the water a couple of portions at a time. Cook for a couple of minutes and drain the pasta. Be careful! Fresh pasta cooks much faster than dried, so it won't take long. An extra 30s and you will be eating mush.


6) Meanwhile for the pesto, heat 1 tbsp of oil in a frying pan. Sauté the garlic and add the nettles. Traditionally the garlic is left raw, and you can for this too, but I like the softened sweeter flavour of the garlic to contrast with the nutty flavour of the nettles. To not be stung by nettles they need to be either steamed or sautéed, so I figure, kill two birds with one stone.


7) When the nettles are wilted, tip them and the other ingredients into a blender or a mortar and pestle and grind until it forms a smooth paste. Taste and adjust any seasoning.


8) Sauté the onion in a large pan, and then add the pesto to it to warm. Add the cooked pasta, and if it looks dry, a couple of spoons of the pasta cooking water. Grate cheese over the top, salt and pepper to taste, and serve!


This came out beautifully! possibly some of the best pasta I've made. It was almost better without the pesto, just with butter, much as I like this pesto. It is a little labour intensive, but it is a labour I love and truly enjoy, especially with a buddy. The turning certainly provided a show during Little Bit's dinner!



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