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Stinging nettle tagliatelle with braised goat and thyme sauce


Recipe from Nino Zoccali's cookbook Pasta Artigiana

Serves 6

2½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small brown onion, diced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
500 g (1 lb, 2 oz) goat shoulder, cut into 2 cm (¾ inch) dice
fine sea salt, to taste
finely ground black pepper, to taste
700 ml (24 fl oz) good-quality tomato passata (tomato purée)
3 thyme sprigs
1 small bay leaf
water or beef broth (see below), if needed during braise
600 g (1 lb, 5 oz) stinging nettle fresh egg pasta dough (see below), cut into tagliatelle (6 mm – 3/8 inch) wide
freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or pecorino cheese, to serve
fresh crusty bread, to serve

Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat and add the diced onion, garlic and goat meat. Season with the sea salt and black pepper and sauté until all are nicely browned. Add the tomato passata, thyme and bay leaf and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 2-3 hours or until the goat meat has become fall-apart tender. Add a little water or beef broth to the sauce throughout the cooking process if the sauce looks like it is becoming too reduced. Once cooked, simply set aside.

Bring abundant salted water to the boil and cook the pasta. With fresh egg pasta, the eating experience is different from dried pasta and the texture is much softer and not really al dente. Strain the pasta and stir through the sauce. Serve with lots of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or pecorino cheese and fresh crusty bread.

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

2 kg (4 lb, 8 oz) beef bones and trimmings
2 tablespoons olive oil
100 g (3½ oz) onion, roughly chopped
100 g (3½ oz) carrot, roughly chopped
100 g (3½ oz) celery stalks, roughly chopped
40 g (1½ oz) garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
4 litres (140 fl oz/16 cups) water
2 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
5 black peppercorns
2 thyme sprigs
2 flat-leaf (Italian) parsley sprigs


Preheat the oven to 150 C (300 F/Gas 2). Place the beef bones and trimmings in a roasting tin and bake until nicely browned (approximately 1-1½ hours). Heat the olive oil in a deep heavy-based frying pan and sauté the onion, carrot, celery and garlic until they are nicely browned.

Deglaze the roasting tin with some of the water, then add this with all the other ingredients to a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and slowly simmer without a lid for 3-4 hours. Skim away the excess fat and other particles that come to the surface of the liquid throughout the cooking process. 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 and discard before using the broth. Beef broth can be made in advance and frozen in an airtight container for up to 2 months.

Stinging nettle fresh egg pasta dough
Makes approximately 600 g (1 lb, 5 oz)

135 g (4¾ oz) picked stinging nettle leaves (see Note)
330 g (11½ oz) plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra, for kneading
70 g (2½ oz) fine semolina
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
4 x 59 g (2¼ oz) free-range or organic eggs

To prepare the stinging nettles, blanch the leaves in boiling water for 2 minutes then refresh in iced water. Strain the stinging nettle and squeeze as much liquid out as you can. This can be achieved by wringing out the nettle in a clean tea towel (dish towel). Place the nettle into a mortar and, using a pestle, work it until it is finely ground. it can also be blended in a food processor, but if overworked it will turn your dough a fluorescent green.

Combine the flour, semolina and sea salt and place on a work surface or large wooden board. The Hour should form a peaked mound. With your hand, make a hole in the top of the mound so that it resembles a volcano. This hole needs to be big enough to be able to 'house' the eggs. Break the eggs into the hole and add the prepared nettles. With your hand or with a fork, gently beat the eggs, then slowly incorporate the flour into the egg mixture. I do this by moving my hand in a circular motion, slowly incorporating the flour from the inside wall of the mound. Don't worry if the dough looks like a mess. This is normal. Once fully combined, knead a little more flour into the dough if it feels a little wet and sticky. Set the dough aside and clean the work space.

Dust some fresh flour onto the work surface and continue kneading the dough for another 5 minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and set aside in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Next, roll the pasta to the desired thickness and cut into the desired shape.

Note: You will need about 450 g (1 lb) nettles to yield this. It is a good idea to use surgical gloves to pick the nettles. This recipe can also be modified and made with any green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, cavolo nero, cime di rapa, chicory, etc. Be very careful to adequately clean the stinging nettle or any alternative green leafy vegetable so as to avoid any soil or dirt particles making their way into the dough.

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