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Pasta with Nettles and Sausage


1 lb fresh nettles
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
4 thin slices (about 1/4 lb) pancetta,
cut into strips
2 mild Italian sausages without fennel
(about 1/2 lb), casing removed
28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
2–4 cups chicken broth
1 lb bite-sized pasta, such as penne
Salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Wearing kitchen gloves or pulling from the bag with tongs, dump the nettles into the water without touching them. Cook, stirring with tongs, for a few minutes, until totally wilted—at which point they will be safe to touch. Drain, cool, and squeeze the water out of them. Coarsely chop and set aside.

Heat a large high-sided saucepan (or heavy soup pot) over low heat. Add olive oil, then onion and garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, until tender and transparent. Increase heat to medium, add pancetta, and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the pancetta begins to crisp. Crumble the sausage into the pan in bite-sized pieces and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up the sausage with a spoon, for 10 minutes, or until cooked through.

Drain the tomato juices into the pan. Pour canned tomatoes into a medium-size bowl and, using your hands, crush them into small pieces. Add tomatoes to the pan along with the reserved nettles and 2 cups of the chicken broth. Cook until the tomatoes break down and the nettles are tender, about 30 to 40 minutes, adding broth as necessary to maintain a thin, juicy consistency.

When the sauce is almost done, cook pasta according to package instructions. Season the sauce with salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste, and serve piping hot over the pasta.

Courtesy of Sabrina Tinsley of La Spiga and Seattle Met

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