I can still remember the first time I ever had risotto. My dad cooked a bacon & leek version and I couldn’t believe what I was eating. A savoury version of rice pudding, it ticked all the comfort food boxes in one little bowl.
Stodgy, carby, creamy, soft and flavoured with bacon and black pepper, it was, and probably still is one of my favourite dishes ever.
This nettle and pancetta risotto recipe isn’t actually too far off the one my Dad made me.
I fry the pancetta in a separate pan (or do it in the same pan beforehand to minimise washing up) until it is ridiculously crispy, and flavour the rice with smoked paprika. This get all the smoky, bacony flavour into the rice, but avoids the pancetta going ‘flobby’.
I like to eat animal fat, but it has to be crispy.
If you’ve never eaten nettles before, this nettle and pancetta risotto is a great recipe to start with. It’s a background flavour (rather than an in your face flavour like nettle soup) and no one would know what they were eating until you deigned to tell them :)
When you pick them, find a patch that hasn’t been sprayed with weedkiller (or by dogs), wear gardening or rubber washing up gloves to pick them, and only pick the top 6 or 8 leaves. The bottom leaves will be tougher and a little stringy, although they are still edible.
I reckon that last picture could turn a vegetarian, don’t you?
- 1 desertspoon oil butter or bacon grease
- 200 ml risotto rice measure in a jug
- 100 g pancetta cubes or lardons
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 700 ml stock heated
- 2 garlic cloves chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Nettle tops from about 15-20 plants. Pull off the leaves and wash them in cold water. Squeeze dry and chop roughly.
- In a small frying pan, start cooking the pancetta cubes until they are perfectly crispy. Put to one side.
- In a good sized saucepan, gently fry the onion in the oil until it starts to soften. Add in the garlic and fry for another minute or two. Then pour in the risotto rice and stir to coat the grains with oil.
- Add the smoked paprika and black pepper to the rice mixture and pour in one ladle of hot stock. The stock will slowly get absorbed by the rice. Stir constantly and when it is looking almost dry, add in another ladle of hot stock. Keep slowly ladling in the stock until it has all gone, by which time the rice should be perfectly cooked. This can take 15-20 minutes so don't leave the stove and keep stirring!
- Throw in the chopped nettle tops and mix through for a minute or two.
- Add half the crispy pancetta to the risotto & stir through, dish up and scatter the remaining pancetta over the top.