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Spinach and nettle risotto with sea scallops


Recipe from Nino Zoccali's cookbook The Venetian Republic

PREP TIME 30 minutes
COOKING TIME 45 minutes

The visual wow factor is thanks to the vibrant green of the nettles, best picked in early spring. Of course, you don’t need to serve the scallops in their shells, but they not only add to the dish’s aesthetic appeal, they also allow the scallops – which should be only just caramelised on both sides – to sit in the beautiful garlic butter.

100 g (3½ oz) stinging nettles (spinach can be used as a substitute)
100 g (3½ oz) spinach
70 ml (⅓ cup) olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
350 g (1⅔ cups) Vialone Nano rice (or any risotto rice)
125 ml (½ cup) white wine
1.5 litres (6 cups) Vegetable or Chicken stock (see below)
100 g (3½ oz) butter
12 half-shell scallops
1 garlic clove, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Wear food prep gloves to prepare the stinging nettles. Pick the nettles from their stalks and place in a bowl of cold water.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.

Place the nettles and spinach into the boiling water until just wilted, approximately 30 seconds. Remove from the water and place in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.

Drain the spinach and nettles and squeeze to remove excess liquid. Process in a food processor to a smooth purée, adding a little cold water or stock, if required.

In a medium-sized pot, add the olive oil and onion and cook over low heat until translucent. Add the rice and cook for 2 minutes, stirring continuously. Add the white wine and cook for 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring the stock to the boil in another pan, then reduce the heat and keep at a simmer.

Slowly add the hot stock to the rice one ladle at a time, stirring continuously as the rice absorbs the stock. This should take approximately 15–20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Fold the spinach and nettle purée into the risotto. Add half the butter and season, then stir through the risotto. Cover and set aside to rest.

Remove the scallop meat from the shells, reserving 4 shells for serving. Heat the 4 presentation shells in a preheated oven, in boiling water or under a grill.

Place a cast-iron skillet pan over a high heat until extremely hot and sear the scallops on each side for 10 seconds. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove the scallops from the pan and add the garlic. Cook until the garlic starts to turn golden (this should take just under 20 seconds) and then add the remaining butter. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the butter to melt.

Place the risotto into serving bowls and add one scallop shell to the centre of each plate. Arrange 3 scallops in each shell. Spoon the melted butter and garlic over the scallops.

Note: Stinging nettles can be sourced from produce markets or gourmet food stores.

Vegetable broth
(Makes approximately 3 litres (105 fl oz/12 cups)

200 g (7 oz) parsnip, roughly chopped
200 g (7 oz) turnip, roughly chopped
300 g (10½ oz) carrot, roughly chopped
100 g (3½ oz) fennel bulb, roughly chopped
300 g (10½ oz) celery stalks, roughly chopped
200g (7 oz) leek, roughly chopped
200g (7 oz) onion, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
2 thyme sprigs
2 flat-leaf (Italian) parsley sprigs
5 black peppercorns
4 litres (140 fl oz/16 cups) water

Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and slowly simmer for 30-60 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve and refrigerate. Vegetable broth can be made in advance and frozen in an airtight container for up to 2 months.

Chicken broth
(Makes approximately 2.5 litres (87 fl oz/10 cups)

1-1.2 kg (2lb, 4 oz - 2lb,10 oz) free-range chicken or boiling hen
1 kg (2lb, 4 oz) fresh chicken bones, thoroughly washed
100g (3½ oz) carrot, roughly chopped
100g (3½ oz) celery stalks, roughly chopped
100g (3½ oz) leek, roughly chopped
100g (3½ oz) onion, roughly chopped
100g (3½ oz) Parmigiano Reggiano cheese rind
3 flat-leaf (Italian) parsley sprigs
4 litres (140 fl oz/16 cups) water
fine sea salt, to taste


Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer without a lid for 2½ to 3 hours. Skim away the excess fat and other particles that come to the surface of the liquid throughout the cooking process. Remove the chicken, shred the meat from the bones (discard the skin and bones), strain the liquid through a fine strainer and refrigerate. If there is excess fat, it will solidify at the top of the refrigerated broth. Remove this with a spoon before using the broth. The cooked chicken can be used in other recipes. Chicken broth can be made in advance and frozen in an airtight container for up to 2 months.

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