The Stinging Greens

If I told you our first CSA box included a bag of stinging nettles, you might furrow your brow and see what the Internet has to say about them. You'd discover that they can cause a fair bit of skin irritation and one of the ways they are used most often is in soups. Now, I love soup. However, with spring offering us summer-like weather of late, I was wanting something more fun that could easily be enjoyed out on the patio. Oh, and it needed to appeal to the youngster.

So I decided that homemade pizza covered in a garlicky white sauce and sprinkled with sautéed nettles, crispy bacon, thin slices of onion, and bubbly cheese was the way to go. Boy, am I glad I did that! This pizza is on our keepers list and I managed to get the youngster to give an enthusiastic thumbs-up to nettles:

Now, if you don't have access to nettles or just aren't quite ready to take on the challenge of cooking with them, you could substitute lightly sautéed spinach for the nettles on this pizza. That said, nettles have a flavor all their own and are incredibly good for you. I used that knowledge to justify my third slice!

You could use fresh garlic in this recipe, but I opted for granulated for two reasons. First, it doesn't add extra liquid to the pizza. Who loves soggy pizza? The greens and onions bring more than enough water to the table without having extra cloves of garlic sweating into the pizza as well. Second, the granulated garlic is very good for creating an even distribution of garlicky flavor. You'd need a very finely minced clove of garlic to get the same kind of flavor distribution from a fresh clove. So feel free to use fresh garlic, but please keep in mind those reasons as you do so.

So if you've ever wondered if stinging nettles are worth the fuss or if they have a place in something other than soups or sauces, this might be the time for you to spend a little time with them. They make a fantastic addition to homemade pizza and it's hard to argue with kicking back on the patio with a few slices to enjoy while the weather is just about perfect. And hey, it even promises to please the potentially fussy eaters among us!

Garlic-Nettle-Bacon Pizza

For the pizza:
  • 6 slices thick-cut smoked bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 pound stinging nettles
  • 1/4 c. snipped fresh chives
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. granulated garlic
  • 1 lb. pizza dough (use homemade or store-bought)
  • Garlic White Sauce (see below)
  • 1/4 thinly sliced white onion wedges
  • 8 oz. grated cheese (choose your favorite variety/combination)
For the garlic white sauce:
  • 2 T. butter
  • 4 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp. granulated garlic
  • 1 T. cornstarch
  • 3 T. water

Fry the bacon until very crisp. Remove it to a plate lined with a paper towel and set aside. Reserve the bacon fat in the skillet you use to cook the bacon.

Wearing thick rubber gloves, clean the nettles by soaking them several times under cold running water, then drain. (Do not touch raw nettles with your bare hands. If you do not have rubber gloves, use tongs to handle the nettles.) Separate the tender leaves from the tough stems, discarding the stems. (Use scissors for this process if you don’t have protective rubber gloves.)

Using tongs, add half of the nettles to the skillet with the reserved bacon fat in it. Cook, stirring often, until the nettles have begun to wilt, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining nettles, along with the chives, salt, and granulated garlic, and cook, stirring often, until wilted, about 3 minutes more. Remove the now-cooked nettles (they will no longer irritate skin) from the pan and set aside.

To make the garlic white sauce, add the butter, cream cheese, and milk to the skillet used to fry the bacon and sauté the nettles. Turn the stove to medium low and, using a wire whisk, slowly mix the ingredients together to form a homogenous thin sauce.

Increase the heat to medium-high and add the other ingredients -- salt through cornstarch and water (mixed together to form a slurry) -- and stir until blended. The sauce will thicken as the skillet begins to bubble. Remove it from the heat when the desired thickness has been attained.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and press the pizza dough evenly into the bottom of a large pizza pan or cookie sheet. Spread a thin layer of the garlic white sauce evenly over the crust. Arrange the reserved bacon, nettles, and sliced onion wedges evenly over the crust and sauce. Sprinkle the top of the pizza evenly with grated cheese. Bake the pizza for 15-20 minutes or until the crust is golden and the cheese is melted and bubbly. Cut into slices and serve immediately.

  • Yields:
  • 4-6 servings
  • Preparation Time:
  • 30 minutes

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