A fun family activity, combine foraging for nettles (make sure you wear rubber gloves) with cooking a delicious, unusual, nutritious meal. Don't worry, though - once cooked, nettles entirely lose their sting!


150g fresh nettles

2 large cloves of garlic75g pine nuts

75g parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

Extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

200g smoked streaky bacon

300g pasta (spirali, fusilli or strozzapreti work well)

How long?

20-30 minutes

How many for?

Feeds 4

Cooking method

1. Wearing rubber gloves, pick the nettle leaves off the stems and wash them thoroughly in a colander. The stems can be discarded.

2. Put the leaves into a large saucepan and pour a kettle of boiling water over them. Over a moderate heat, press all the leaves under the water, bringing it back up to the boil and keeping the leaves moving. This gets rid of the sting. Once boiled, drain off the liquid and squeeze the residual moisture from the now sting-less nettles.

3. Put a small, dry saucepan onto a moderate heat until the base is hot. Put your garlic cloves, still in their papery skin, into the pan and dry roast until the cloves are starting to char and turn tender. This makes the flavour gentler and subtler when blended with the other ingredients.

4. Remove the garlic, peel off the skin and set aside. In the same hot, dry pan, toast the pine nuts until just turning golden.

5. Put the garlic, pine nuts, lemon juice and zest into a blender and whizz until well chopped. Add the squeezed nettle leaves with a good splosh of olive oil and blend again until the paste is smooth and relaxed. You may have to add a bit more oil to get the right consistency to stir through the pasta. Mix the grated cheese into the pesto, season with salt and pepper and set aside.

6. Meanwhile, grill or fry your bacon until it’s crispy and cook your pasta until just al dente. Chop the bacon into good-sized chunks and drain the pasta, retaining a cup of the liquid. Stir the pasta together with a good-sized spoonful of the pesto, adding some splashes of the cooking liquid to slacken off the mixture.

7. Serve the pasta sprinkled with the bacon and some more grated parmesan.